On Thursday, the Del Norte girls tennis team was five members strong and looking like it would have to forfeit matches in competition.
Fast-forward two days. The Warriors put a full team on the courts at Del Norte High School for its first scheduled match Saturday morning — and walked away victorious.
Del Norte won four of the six contested singles matches and two of the three doubles matches for a 6-3 victory over McKinleyville and a major shot in the arm for a team coming together.
“We didn’t know how we were going to do,” senior Taylor Cleland said.
Pretty well, apparently.
Sisters Panhia and Debbie Yang joined the squad the day before the match and were in Del Norte’s top six entering Saturday. Neither sibling had played competitively before Saturday, and Panhia Yang admitted that she was not completely familiar with the rules of the game.
“It’s nice,” said Debbie Yang, a Del Norte sophomore. “Everybody’s all respectful. They care about each other. It’s very supportive.”
Panhia Yang, a junior, took down Chelsea Sandiga of the Panthers in her No. 4 singles match (7-5, 6-3) and teamed up with Alexis Wright in the No. 2 doubles match. Wright and Yang lost to McKinleyville’s Abby Morgan and Sandiga, 6-3, 6-1.
Del Norte High junior Panhia Yang, left, reaches for a drop shot hit by McKinleyville’s Chelsea Sandiga in the No. 4 singles match on Saturday. Yang lost the point but won the match, 7-5, 6-3, as the Warriors defeated the Panthers, 6-3, for their first team win of the season. Del Norte Triplicate/Robert Husseman
Debbie Yang went back and forth with the Panthers’ Johanna Gross in a tight first set in the No. 5 singles match. Tied at 6-6, Gross shut Yang out in the seven-point tiebreaker.
“I never do good at tiebreakers,” Debbie Yang said. “I hit the ball too hard sometimes.
“I just wanted to start over. I guess I got motivation.”
And how. Yang lost two games the rest of the way for a 6-7 (0), 6-0, 6-2 victory. Her effort clinched the team win with two matches still to be played.
Yang teamed up with junior Kira Morse in the No. 3 doubles match against Gross and Adyn McCabe of McKinleyville. Tied at 5-5, Yang and Morse rallied to end the day with an 8-5 victory. (The No. 3 doubles match was reduced from best-of-three-sets to a pro-set due to time constraints.)
Sophomore Jordan Babich was Del Norte’s second double-winner on the day, defeating Stormy Rhain Jake of the Panthers in straight sets (6-4, 6-3) and teaming with Cleland, her cousin, for a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Jake and Corina Gloor at No. 1 doubles.
Cleland, who admitted to getting little sleep the night before the match, came out flat against Gloor in the No. 1 singles match and lost, 6-2, 6-0.
“No sleep plus bad allergies — It was the first match of the year,” Cleland said. “I hope I can get it together.”
Like Debbie Yang, Wright entered into a first-set tiebreaker in the No. 3 singles match against McKinleyville’s Morgan. She won the tiebreaker 7-4, then controlled the second set en route to a 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory.
“That was the longest match I’ve ever played in my entire life,” Wright said.
In the No. 6 singles match, Del Norte’s Morse fell to McKinleyville’s McCabe in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.
The Warriors (1-0 overall) continue their season today against Eureka at the Del Norte High School tennis courts. Match play begins at 4 p.m.