With an 8-1 victory over Arcata at home on Thursday, the Del Norte girls tennis team has now beaten every team in the Humboldt-Del Norte League this season and is halfway to a potential second straight league championship.
Head coach Samuel Escobar has long regarded Arcata as one of the toughest teams in the league this year, but the Tigers were a little banged up on Thursday, coming to Crescent City without their regular No. 1 singles player. That forced all the Arcata players to move up a position, and the Warriors took advantage with lots of lopsided victories.
“The fact that we won 8-1 we are extremely happy with and we are also happy with the fact that we are undefeated for the first half of the year,” Escobar said.
Del Norte’s only loss of the day came in what was easily the most tightly contested match of the afternoon — No. 1 singles.
Del Norte’s top player Bailee Drown fell behind in the No. 1 singles match after a 6-4 loss in the first set. With the second set tied 3-3, Drown won seven straight sets to tie the match at 1-1 and grab a 4-0 lead in the third and final set. Arcata’s top player was able to win the next five sets in a row, however, and eventually won the set 7-5 to pull out a 2-1 win over Drown.
In all, the No. 1 singles match lasted about two hours, more than twice that of any of the other singles or doubles matches as nearly every point was a rally between the two evenly match opponents.
Del Norte won the rest of the matches against Arcata fairly handily.
Jasmine Pearson won the No. 2 singles match 6-0, 6-1 in a match that Del Norte assistant coach Jane Rumiano thought was one of her best of the year. Rumiano said Pearson was completely focused on strategy throughout the match, concentrating on where to put her next shot.
“When you play tennis that way, you aren’t thinking at all about the mechanics involved in the shot,” Rumiano said. “That is how far her tennis has advanced so far in the season. She has really taken big strides.”
In the doubles matches, Pearson and Drown teamed up for an impressive 8-3 victory over Arcata.
“That was the best tennis that they have played all year long,” Escobar said. “We were extremely pleased with the strategy that they employed, the consistency of their strokes and their shot selections. That was the most agile that I have seen both of them, they kept the court balanced, they moved well and they played excellent as a team.”
Del Norte’s Castly Thao and Diana Loban were both as dominant as usual and stayed undefeated for the season. Thao won the No. 3 singles match 6-1, 6-0 and Loban won the No. 4 singles 6-0, 6-0. The two seniors teamed up in the No. 2 doubles match for an 8-0 sweep.
“I have always been impressed with how consistent Diana and Castley are,” Escobar said. “They are almost like ball machines when you hit the ball at them. What I like about their play is Castley is more of a baseline player but she will vary her shots. Loban, on the other hand, will go side to side against players, but doesn’t mind coming to the net and being aggressive.
“Both styles of play are completely different, but they are both consistent. And if you go back and look at the scores, they are always winning 6-0, 6-0 or 6-1, 6-0.”
Del Norte assistant coach Betsy Eninger said Danika Scott was particularly accurate with her first serves on Thursday, which helped her to an 8-1 win in the No. 5 singles match.
Aliyah Rafalowski took the No. 6 singles match 8-2.
“Aliyah is extremely coach-able,” Eninger said. “She loves to get input through her match and she is doing a good job of placing the balls.”
Scott and Rafalowski teamed up for an 8-3 victory in the No. 3 doubles match.
Del Norte has the weekend off and will be back in action on Tuesday with a trip to Eureka to take on St. Bernard’s. That meet is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com.