By Robin Hester
Ventura College Sports information
VENTURA – On a nearly perfect day for tennis at the Ventura College Tennis Center, the Orange Coast College women’s tennis team had a perfect ending to a storied season, defeating Foothill College 5-1 on Wednesday afternoon to capture the 2019 CCCAA Women's Tennis State Championship. The win capped an undefeated season for the Pirates (22-0), who won their second title in the past three seasons and the program’s 10th state crown, overall.
Northern California Champion Foothill (18-2) pushed OCC early in the match. The teams traded wins in doubles with the Owls’ No. 3 duo of Carlee Ellis and Cindy Slain defeating Shannon Stone and Jackie Kaiser 8-2 before the Pirates returned the favor at No. 1 shortly thereafter when Miri Inoue and Nicole Nickerbocker downed Natsumi Masuda and Ana Schneider-Jerez, 8-1.
The match turned on the No. 2 doubles contest. With Orange Coast’s Shayee Sherif and Camryn Mason trailing Mailinh Truong and Thanish Arul Kumar 7-5, the Pirates survived five deuce points to hold serve. They proceeded to break the Owls’ serve twice in the next three games en route to capturing the match 9-7. The win gave Orange Coast a 2-1 edge and momentum heading to singles play.
“It gave us an incredible amount of momentum,” said OCC head coach Chris Ketcham of the come-from-behind win in No. 2 doubles. “Not just on the scoreboard, but mentally. We knew that we just had to win three singles matches instead of four.
“It’s a big deal to get that edge in the doubles. I think that propels you with a lot more confidence and belief that you can finish off the team in singles.”
The Pirates rode the momentum through a dominating performance in singles play, capturing the first set on all six courts before easily winning on courts 1, 2, and 3, respectively, to take the trophy.
Inoue was first to finish off her singles match, defeating Masuda 6-0, 6-1 in the No. 1 slot, shortly before Sherif triumphed at No. 2 with a love-love victory over Schneider-Jerez.
At that point, the race was onto see who would clinch the title, with Knickerbocker bringing home the prize, 6-1, 6-1 over Arul Kumar.
“It doesn’t feel like we won the state,” said OCC’s No.1 singles star Miri Inoue. “It’s crazy. I’m happy for our team.”
The Pirates were also ahead in the three remaining singles matches when the championship was won. Mason led Truong 6-2, 4-0 at No. 4 while Boettcher had the advantage on Ellis in the No. 5 slot, 6-4, 0-1. Finally, Stone led Slain 6-1, 3-2 at No. 6.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Ketcham. “You really show and prove that you are the best team in the state.”
One could even say, ‘perfectly’ the best.