Lions stunned in sweep
Live Oak High's girls tennis coach stared straight ahead at the courts for a moment Thursday, speechless.
His Lions were losing, 5-0, to visiting Willows at that moment, and Coach Greg Sanchez was having a tough time explaining it.
“I'm at a complete loss for words,” Sanchez said before Live Oak went on to lose, 9-0, in a Sacramento Valley League North match. “I have no idea. It's not that we are losing matches. It's how we are getting beaten. The scores are not even close. It's frustrating. It's startling.”
Last week, the Lions (5-5, 1-3) played tough on Willows' home courts, losing 5-4. Live Oak won two singles matches, with a third being extended to three sets. The Lions won two of three doubles contests.
In Thursday's rematch, however, Willows (7-1, 4-0) showed no mercy. In the first five singles matches, only the battle between the No. 1 players was even close. Willows' Kelly Dunn dropped Live Oak's Kiran Jhutti, 7-6 (2), 6-2.
“She's the defending league champ,” Sanchez said of Dunn. “Her mental attitude is her strength.”
Sanchez admitted Jhutti has a more complete game and is a better volleyer.
“Kiran has all the tools,” Sanchez said.
But Dunn intimidates players, Sanchez said, and wears them down mentally. It appeared to be the case Thursday.
Jhutti opened the first game by holding serve, despite a pair of double faults. Dunn came back to win the next two games, breaking Jhutti's serve in the process. Jhutti then went on to take a 4-3 lead, but was unable to hold it.
Dunn pulled the match square, 4-4, by forcing Jhutti to hit the ball out four times. Dunn then
broke Jhutti's serve to take a 5-4 lead, rallying from a 30-love deficit with four straight points.
Jhutti battled back and won the next two games for a 6-5 lead. In the first, she rallied from a 30-love deficit, using a hard hit down the line that was not returned to key the surge.
But Dunn answered with four straight points, the last coming off an ace, to knot the game at 6-6. Dunn won the tiebreaker with ease, 7-2.
In the second set, Jhutti won two of the first three games, but then didn't win the rest of the way.
The other Lion who played well in singles was No. 4 Laci Rogers.
“She only took a racquet up Aug. 8,” Sanchez said, noting Rogers played volleyball her freshman year and was a cheerleader last year. “She was 7-2 before today's match. It's scary to think what Laci would be like if she played the last two years. She's really amazing.”
Rogers ended up losing, 6-4, 6-0. In other singles action, Rachel DeWitt fell, 6-0, 6-2; Harpreet Gill stumbled, 6-0, 6-1; Vivian Alvarado lost, 6-1, 6-1; and Julie Avalos fell, 6-2, 6-0.
In doubles, Jhutti and DeWitt lost, 8-4, Gill and Alvarado fell, 8-5, and Rogers and Avalos lost, 8-6.
“They are the team to beat in league,” Sanchez said.