The Del Norte girls tennis team was confident heading into the Humboldt-Del Norte League doubles championships on Thursday, but a late scratch due to illness ended up shifting Del Norte’s regular doubles teams around, and forced a forfeit in the No. 3 doubles bracket. Senior Diana Loban and sophomore Danika Scott were able to pull through the adversity for the No. 2 doubles championship, however.
Heading into the day, Escobar said he felt good about the chances of all three doubles teams taking first place in their respective brackets, but everything changed before matches began.
With rain coming down in McKinleyville, the doubles tournament picked up and headed south to Fortuna. But by the time championships were ready to kick off, Del Norte’s No. 2 player, Jasmine Pearson, was too sick to compete.
Pulling Pearson out of her regular spot on the No. 1 doubles team forced No. 3 Castly Thao to move up to the No. 1 team, and Scott, normally the No. 5 player, moved up to the No. 2 doubles match.
Although the Warriors have extra players on their roster, Del Norte didn’t have any extra players on hand, so the Warriors were forced to bow out of the No. 3 doubles bracket, where Del Norte was undefeated and would have been the tournament’s top seed.
Loban and Scott, who had a first-round bye due to their No. 1 seed, teamed up for a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Arcata in the No. 2 doubles semifinals. Del Norte continued to roll in the finals, picking up a 6-1, 6-0 victory over McKinleyville.
“It was nice to see Diana Loban win doubles again after winning the (No. 4) singles championship last week, and winning the No. 2 doubles title last year,” head coach Samuel Escobar said. “Danika Scott got to experience a little better competition in the No. 2 doubles match than she would normally see in the No. 3 singles match, and she supported Loban well throughout the tournament.”
In the No. 1 singles bracket, Del Norte’s team of Bailee Drown and Thao had the No. 2 seed. The Warriors opened up with a fairly easy 6-0, 6-0 victory over St. Bernard’s in the quarterfinals before falling 6-2, 1-6, 6-0 in the semifinals to eventual HDNL doubles champion Arcata.
“Had we been at full strength, we would have had an overpowering No. 1 doubles team, and my thoughts are we would have cruised through the No. 2 and No. 3 brackets for championships,” Escobar said. “At the same time, that is not the way it happened. It was not a good day for somebody to get sick and it wasn’t a good day to not play well. Despite the results of the matches, it in no way takes away from the huge accomplishments that we had throughout the year with an undefeated season and back-to-back league championships.”
The Warriors were also expecting to wrap up the HDNL singles championships after the finals were postponed on Saturday. Due to the change in venue and subsequent late start to the doubles tournament, all coaches involved agreed not to play the No. 2 and No. 3 singles finals.
The doubles championships officially wrap up the 2017 Humboldt-Del Norte League season, but the Warriors will have at least one match left to play. As league champions, the Warriors will have a spot in the North Coast Section Team Championships, scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Brackets for the NCS team championships, along with the host site, will be released on Sunday on the section’s website — cifncs.org. Although the brackets have yet to be announced, Esobar said traditionally the HDNL champion has garnered a low seed, so the Warriors will likely face one of the top teams in the section right off the bat.
“The likelihood that we will win the entire match is very minute,” Escobar said. “Our goal is to be competitive, and to maybe win a few games and if we win an individual match or two we will consider that a huge victory.”
The NCS team championships have a slightly different format than the HDN meets. At NCS, matches consist of four singles matches and three doubles matches, but no player is allowed to play both singles and doubles.
Esobar said Del Norte’s strength ladder will remain the same, but coaches are still working out which players will compete in singles matches and which will compete in doubles.