Hollister High's Kendall Bejines is playing at the No. 3 singles spot for the Haybalers this season. (Chris Mora/special to the Free Lance)

At the halfway point of the league’s double round-robin, the Hollister High girls’ tennis team is in first place with an unbeaten record in Pacific Coast Athletic League play.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, they faced a unique test when Monterey High traveled to town but the Haybalers passed with flying colors in a 5-2 win in Mission Division action Oct. 3.

The challenge with Monterey is its phenomenal top two players, Emi Okada-Alonzo and Jessica Haas, who are perhaps the best two in the league. 

However, the Balers had more depth and that proved the difference in winning the contest.

The victory improved Hollister’s overall record to 8-1, placing the team atop the Mission Division standings with a 6-0 record as of Oct. 9. Monterey slips to 2-5 overall and 2-4 in league play.

The Haybalers beat Alvarez High, 6-1, on Sept. 28 with two of the wins coming in three-set tiebreakers during their most challenging match of the first half of league play. 

When opponents split the first two sets, instead of a full third set, a “first-to-10” tiebreaker is used to decide the winner. The rematch with the Eagles will be on Oct. 17 at 4:30pm. 

“The kids are developing well,” said Hollister coach Ed Cesena. “And we have a young team. I think only one player on the varsity will be graduating. Jina (Youn) is our No. 1 singles player. She hits the ball hard and is very athletic and very strong.”

Jina Youn faced Okada-Alonzo, a freshman who plays like she is already in college. Okada-Alonzo defeated Youn 6-0, 6-0 and has dropped just one game all year. 

“It was really challenging for me,” Youn said. “In our league, there’s no good people like her. It’s the most fun match I played this year. She’s really strong and has great technique and really good serves. I was really happy that I made a deuce. I want to train more and get at least a game from her next time.”

Tennis runs deep in the family’s blood as Okada-Alonzo’s older brother, Lleyton, racked up a 35-0 mark in league play over four years and never lost a set, going 70-0.

In his senior year, he reached the Central Coast Section semifinals, where he lost a close match to eventual champion Anthony Lim of Crystal.

Monterey coach Jim Somerville said Okada-Alonzo plays a lot against her older brother and he does not take it easy on her.

“My opponent (Youn) was good,” Emi Okada-Alonzo said. “She played good. I was getting my serve in and I didn’t make a lot of errors. My placement was great.”

Kate Ang played No. 2 singles for Hollister and lost in two sets (6-1, 6-1) to Haas, a foreign exchange student from Germany.

“Kate has good strokes and is good from the baseline,” Cesena said. “She has heavy topspin on her forehand. She is really fast and covers a lot of ground.”

Youn and Ang both still put up strong fights. 

The team victory started with Kendall Bejines’ straight-set win (6-4, 6-2) over Juliana Bard at the No. 3 spot, followed by a win by default by Cayla Baik at No. 4 singles. 

The No. 1 doubles team of Rachel Harrison and Marissa Rodriguez triumphed over Rita Huynh and Margaux Tybus 6-3, 6-2. 

At No. 2, Madelyn Loyd and Kylie Correa beat Brooke Tsuchiga and Kohra Crews 6-1, 6-4, while Olivia Tankersley and Melissa Estrada topped Viviana Dirksen and Perla Casas 6-3, 6-3 in the No. 3 doubles match.

Rodriguez cited teamwork and communication, along with solid serving for the victory at number one doubles. Harrison concurred.

“It was interesting because I was moved in from number four singles when they defaulted,” Harrison said. “I haven’t played together with Marissa since earlier in the year. But we communicated well. A strategy that worked today was hitting good forehands. Hit hard strokes and get our serves in.”

Monterey will host Hollister on Oct. 19. CCS team playoffs begin on Nov. 6.

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