For opposing girls tennis players this year, Turlock High’s No. 1 singles player Jillian Temple might well have been known as the “Temple of Doom.”
And so it was when Temple stopped Merced’s Isabel Serafin in an unusually difficult match for the Bulldogs’ unstoppable senior, who pulled out a 7-6, 6-4 to win the Central California Conference singles title Thursday and move on to the Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament.
Temple, who ripped off 16 consecutive victories without a loss, “really had to work,” said her coach Linda Bejaran. “I think Jillian played a very smart second set. She really had to work hard against Isabel who is a soccer player and is a very athletic kid.
“But Jillian is our team leader and captain and she just wouldn’t let up. She plays hard and has a lot of fire in her and that’s what made the difference against Isabel today.”
Temple agreed with her coach, saying “I thought I played real well and I was happiest about the way I was able to play my game and not play hers like I did the last time (she played Serafin.) Things became a lot easier toward the end because I calmed myself down and did what I needed to do.”
Bejaran was also pleased with all three of her doubles teams, all of whom gave determined efforts.
But she saved her highest praise for Maddie Hillis and Lauren Carlson, who put together their best individual efforts of the year when they needed it most, winning the CCC doubles tournament crown in the process, also earning a trip to the sections in Sacramento next week.
“All of our doubles teams played very well,” said Bejaran. “They really needed to turn up their intensity and they did that today when we needed it most.
“It was a long day but a great day because Jillian won and Maddie and Lauren won the doubles tournament. I can’t say enough about how tough they played. They came out there determined to win and they really looked like an outstanding doubles team. They moved their feet, played smart and showed an awful lot of aggressiveness.”
As a portend of things to come earlier in the morning, Hillis and Carlson needed all of their shots to beat Pitman’s Brianna Wheeler and Sahemi Castorena 6-4, 6-3 in a back-and-forth battle that displayed the many talents of all four players.
Pitman tennis coach Doug Reimers, whose day ended much sooner as Pitman’s two doubles teams were dispatched by early afternoon, was very pleased with the way his twosome, Wheeler and Castorena, battled Turlock’s Hillis and Carlson.
“I thought they both did a real good job,” said Reimers of Wheeler and Castorena. “They were very quick, quicker than usual, and they played with much more intensity in this match. What I really liked was the way Brianna, normally a singles player, took Sahemi, who is also a singles player, aside and discussed the importance of rushing the net because both of them are used to playing back at the service line.
“Our girls played hard and I was proud of them.”
Said THS’ Hillis after the match, “Lauren and I are both used to playing back but our coach (Bejaran) came out and told us to widen the court and put the alleys to use. And that worked for us.”
Turlock’s No. 3 doubles team, Kayla Gilkisin and Rebecca Cripe also had their moments during their one-and done doubles match.
Another big surprise was the outstanding play of Turlock’s Mila Johns and Courtnie Chan, who beat Merced’s No. 2 doubles team 6-3, 6-3. Then Johns and Chan went on to a much more difficult match with Merced’s top duo, Dianne Eltagunde and Julia McLeod, and outlasted them in three sets before finally falling.
“I am so proud of the way Mila and Courtney played together,” said Bejaran. “In fact they both played better than they have all season, particularly Mila. She really turned up her intensity and I was impressed with the way both of them played so aggressively and made some outstanding shots under pressure. It was definitely a good day for us.”