Temecula Valley girls tennis team topples Great Oak, forces tie atop Southwestern League standings – Press Enterprise

TEMECULA — A number of matches between the top Southwestern League girls tennis teams have been incredibly close, and it’s a wonder anyone has nails left to bite.

Temecula Valley and Great Oak squared off for the second time Tuesday afternoon on the former’s home courts. When these two teams played across town last month, Great Oak prevailed via a tiebreaker by five games. The Wolfpack also have two tiebreaker wins over Vista Murrieta, with both matches decided by a single game.

Tuesday’s rematch again was chock full of suspense, but this time a calculator was not needed to determine the winner. Senior Avery Steele swept all three of her sets in singles, and she secured the match-winning point as Temecula Valley held on for a 10-8 victory and forced a tie for first place in the league standings.

Temecula Valley and Great Oak each have a match remaining to play Thursday, but both sides are expected to prevail and ultimately share the league championship. That would mark the fourth consecutive Southwestern League title for Great Oak, while Temecula Valley would celebrate its first league crown since 2015.

“It took every player coming out here and playing with heart instead of playing scared,” Temecula Valley coach Alison Guzman said. “We played to win today.”

Temecula Valley (14-2 overall, 8-1 in league) held a 4-2 lead after the opening rotation. The second rotation proved crucial for the fate of both teams. Two of the sets were decided in a tiebreaker, and two others finished with 7-5 scores. Temecula Valley pulled out three of those wins to increase its lead to 8-4.

Steele is Temecula Valley’s best singles player, but Guzman slotted the senior into the No. 2 spot Tuesday to let her ease her way in the action before taking on Great Oak’s Victoria Herrera, a player Steele has never beaten. Steele posted a 6-2 victory in the opening rotation and then faced Herrera in the second round. Herrera broke Steele’s serve in the first game of that set, but Steele eventually got back on serve and finished strong for a 7-5 victory.

“The entire time it was I’m going to outrun, I’m going to outlast, I’m going to outlive, as (Alexander) Hamilton says,” Steele said, referring to a song from the musical “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. “It came down to mental toughness and grit… and just fighting until the end, even if there little left in the tank.”

Temecula Valley’s No. 2 doubles team — Elle VanZanten and Bora Jin — raced to a 5-2 lead in Round 2, but Great Oak’s Samantha Huang and Kaitlyn Riddell rallied and surged ahead 6-5. The set eventually went to a tiebreaker, which VanZanten and Jin took 7-3. Emma Little, who was playing No. 3 singles for Temecula Valley, was locked in a close battle against Brooke Curtis that same rotation. Little managed to hold serve and closed things out for a 7-5 win.

Great Oak (14-2, 8-1) cut the deficit to 9-6 in the third rotation, but Steele put the Golden Bears over the top with a 6-2 victory that completed her sweep.

“Great Oak is a phenomenal team, and the first match was heartbreaking. It was tough loss,” Steele said. “We decided to come back, do our best and not play as tense as we did the first time. We stayed loose and had more fun with everything. I honestly believe that’s what pushed us across the finish line at the end.”

Little picked up two points in singles for Temecula Valley. The doubles teams of Scarlett Iverson-Kylie White and VanZanten-Jin won two sets apiece, while Sarah Lopez and Mandy Reyes picked up in the fifth doubles points for the Golden Bears.

Ava Flanagan and Ashyln McGreevey led the way for Great Oak with a doubles sweep (6-4, 7-5, 6-2), while Huang and Riddell scored the other doubles point for the Wolfpack. Herrera won two sets in singles, while Curtis and Chloe Lee each picked up a point for the Wolfpack.

“We’ve had a string of matches over the years where we always seemed to find a way to pull out the close ones,” Great Oak coach Ray Fisher said. “That didn’t happen for us s today, and I have to give the credit to Temecula Valley. We had our opportunities, but they found a way to win those close ones today.”

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