When it comes to effort, one couldn’t have asked for much more than what Turlock High coach Linda Bejaran received from her three Bulldogs in the Central California Conference singles tournament at Turlock Tuesday.
So said the admittedly “exhausted” Bejaran after her No. 1 player, Jillian Temple, stormed her way to three consecutive wins and a trip to the CCC Finals, which will be held Thursday, again at THS.
“I’m worn out mentally after trying to coach our girls all day," said Bejaran.
Temple, the top-ranked singles player in the CCC, shot her way past Buhach Colony’s Jasmine Herrera, 6-0, 6-3 then dispatched Merced’s Natassja Magliba, 6-1, 6-0, and finally put away Atwater’s top player, Catrina Velardi , in a wild 7-5, 7-6 (8-6 tiebreaker) to catapult herself into the finals.
"Jillian was down 5-1 in the second set and did a great job coming back,” Bejaran said of Turlock’s senior standout.
That match lasted well over two hours and capped a long, eventful day from Bejaran and Co. as her top two players had to battle their way through some very lengthy, potentially season-ending matches while the Bulldogs’ No. 3 player, junior Mila Johns, started quickly before falling 5-7, 2-6 to Golden Valley’s No. 1 player, Danielle Vigil.
Johns, who beat Atwater’s Sandra Waller 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, “has all the tools,” Bejaran said.
“She can serve, volley, hit the forehand and backhand. She just needs to work on her mental toughness a bit, not let things that go wrong bother her, and she’ll be tough to beat next year.”
Meanwhile Turlock’s No. 2 player, Maddie Hillis, beat Pitman’s No. 2 player, Sally Acosta by a 6-0, 6-0 count before finally dropping a three-set tiebreaking loss to the CCC’s second-ranked No. 1 singles player, Isabel Serafin of Merced.
“Maddie was out there for over three hours,” Bejaran said afterward, “so it was heartbreaking to see her lose that one. She gave 100 percent and really battled out there. It was a shame she had to lose.“
On the bright side, Hillis is not done yet as she and Lauren Carlson – Turlock High’s unbeaten No. 4 singles player — will team as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 doubles team, and Bejaran likes their chances.
“When you consider Lauren played so well at singles for us this year, and so did Maddie, I think they have a real good chance of doing well Thursday,” the Turlock coach said.
“I’m really proud of our girls,” Bejaran said. “They all play as hard as they can and they couldn’t be easier to coach.”
Unfortunately for cross-town rival Pitman, things didn’t go nearly as well for coach Doug Reimer’s team.
The Pride’s top player, MacKenzie Nordahl, opened with a convincing 6-2, 6-4 win over Golden Valley’s Michelle McGee before falling 6-0, 6-1 to Atwater’s Velardi.
Pitman’s No. 2 player, Acosta, was stopped by Turlock’s Hillis in a tough day at the office for the Pride.
CCC playoff tennis action resumes Thursday at Turlock High with the doubles finals being held at 9 a.m. and the singles finals starting at 11 a.m.