Tennis: Balers have sights on league championship

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Number one singles player Kyle Skinner crushes a return during his match Tuesday afternoon against Kyle Wong.

For the third time in this four years as a San Benito tennis player, Kyle Skinner will find himself alone on the tennis court with his opponent.

The Balers’ No. 1 singles player wouldn’t have it any other way.

After dominating the Tri-County Athletic League with doubles partner Eric Johnson last year, Skinner is happy to return to singles play and the challenge of getting the Balers points by himself.

And if everything goes well, at the end of the year he expects to claim the TCAL championship.

“I have a good chance at winning TCAL singles because I have grown so much playing doubles, learning how to volley,” Skinner said.

So far this year, the team has played well enough to start the league season with victories over Monte Vista Christian, Palma and, on Tuesday, Christopher.

Against Monte Vista and Christopher, San Benito didn’t lose a match, going 7-0 in both contests. Against Palma, the Balers squeaked by with a 4-3 win in Salinas.

“I expect us to win the league this year — I really do,” head coach Chris Yoder. “We beat Palma and they are going to come here and play us again. I like our chances against them here. And I’m hoping we are going to win the league and play the No. 2 team in the CCS. It’s way premature but not really. That’s what I expect, but whether they do it is another thing.”

On Tuesday, San Benito never gave Christopher a chance. The Balers didn’t lose a set and finished off Christopher in an hour.

No. 2 singles player Andrew Panger (6-3, 6-1), No. 3 singles player Eric Johnson (6-0, 6-1) and Geoff Muzik (6-1, 6-0) all won in straight sets.

The doubles teams of Nick Trillo and Aaron Francis (6-1, 6-0), Sonny Singh (6-3, 6-4) and Alex Reilly and Jacob Panger (6-0, 6-1) all won easily.

The easy victory was needed, after a 6-1 loss to Monterey on Monday.

“I felt like we knew we are going to mozy on through them,” Skinner said. “Last year, it was the same thing. Coming off a game against Monterey, it was a confidence builder. It makes it more enjoyable, and it’s such an easy match, you can perfect what you did wrong and make it better today.”

Skinner expects his team to continue doing just that.

“I think our team is going to win our league, our division of TCALs, because we were put in the lower part of TCALs when I think we belong in the upper tier. Which is cool,” Skinner said. “I’m just excited. I’ve been waiting for us to have this strong of a team. Playing No. 1 singles as a sophomore was intimidating. I can rely on the guys below me. This is the year that we are going to do it.”

To prepare the team to win its league, Yoder scheduled a plethora of non-league matches to boost the team’s confidence and skill, he said. So far, the Balers have done well in those matches, losing to only Carmel (4-3) and Monterey (6-1 and 4-3).

“We just need to play more matches,” he said. “They have all the tools – they must need to play. They’ve played real well. (Monday) was the first time we were really spanked. They weren’t down on themselves or nothing. They realize if they don’t play well we aren’t going to win. We have to play well to win most of the time.”

San Benito (4-3) hosted Watsonville on Thursday. Look online for an update.

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