As relaxed as the Davis High boys tennis squad seemed in sweeping Turlock on Monday, it was a different feeling on Tuesday as the semifinal match with Oak Ridge turned into a battle.
But even after pushing the Blue Devils hard, the Trojans didn’t have enough to stop the hometown heroes in their pursuit of Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament glory. DHS’ 6-3 triumph clinched a spot in Wednesday’s SJS championship match, where it will try to win its fifth straight title.
Perhaps most dramatic a difference in exertion Tuesday at the Community Park Tennis Complex was in Glenn Hull’s No. 1 singles showdown with Oak Ridge’s Brandon Sutter. Hull, who hardly broke a sweat Monday, had to towel off many times in the longest-running matchup of the semis.
In the engagement, which Hull eventually lost 6-7, 6-2, 10-7, a small congregation cheered on the young athletes as they sprinted and slid across the court to reach for returns, and took turns pummeling hard shots at each other.
On the neighboring court, Devil No. 2 Andrew Dumit was countered by an equally formidable opponent. Dumit’s match progressed slowly, with several momentum swings both ways, but he eventually, prevailed, 6-3, 6-3.
Meanwhile, on the far end of the court, a silent spectacle unfolded. No. 6 Tris Dutta managed to win the next nine consecutive sets — after his Trojan adversary had taken a 4-1 first-set lead — on his way to a 6-4, 5-0 advantage. Though the run stopped there, Dutta held on for a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
In doubles, No. 2 Manraj Gill and Bob Li were able to make no such comeback, and fell 6-3, 6-3. The Davis duo hung close to the net, which Oak Ridge’s Max He and Sam Miller exploited by lobbing shots over their heads.
Sean Mishra, a local singles player in the No. 4 slot, also was defeated (6-1, 7-5), but when Blue Devils Isaac Yee and Isaac Zhang posted wins at No. 3 and No. 5 singles, respectively, and DHS’ No. 3 doubles squad did likewise, victory was assured.
When news of the Devil win came — in the form the crowd’s cheers — No. 1 doubles players Scott Lucio and Dan Segedin relaxed enough to overcome a slight deficit and prevail, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Still, it was a bit too close for comfort, according to Davis head coach Dale Hersch. The Blue Devils have never lost two or more doubles matches in the annual tournament, and veteran mentor intends to preserve that history.
“We were on the verge of that happening (Tuesday),” Hersch said. “I didn’t spend a lot of time watching (doubles) at first, because it’s usually such a strong point for us.
“I credit Oak Ridge; they did everything they needed to do. We need to make adjustments. Our guys came out with a set game plan, and when it wasn’t working, they didn’t really change.”
DHS will need to get that corrected if it is to best longtime rival Jesuit in a championship contest set for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Davis. The Marauders rolled past Granite Bay, 9-0, on Tuesday.
“Nine of the past 11 years we’ve played them in the section finals,” Hersch said. “The score has been 5-4 every time except once. I don’t see it being any different.
“We’re ready, and the kids know how to compete. They know it’s going to go down to the wire.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett