San Benito senior Kyle Skinner waited nearly four years to experience a team-based tennis playoffs. This year, thanks to a perfect 10-0 record inside the Tri-County Athletic League’s Mountain Division, Skinner and the Balers accomplished that goal.
But that playoff berth ended swiftly Tuesday at the hands of the TCAL Valley Division’s Monterey squad. The Toreadors dominated the Balers at the Ridgemark Tennis Center on Tuesday, winning 7-0 and clinching a Central Coast Section playoffs berth.
Meanwhile, the Balers could only look toward next year without its top players, including Skinner, Geoff Muzik and Eric Johnson.
“Well this one sucked,” Skinner said. “But Monterey is the better team.”
Skinner, the Balers’ No. 1 singles player, struggled to open his match with the Toreadors’ Daryn Arakawa. Skinner quickly fell behind in the first game, but made a strong push in the second to close the match 6-3, 7-5.
“I played okay in the first and better in the second,” Skinner said. “It took me a while to find my groove, but once I had it, I made it close. I just couldn’t pull it off.”
Skinner was one of the few Balers that troubled the Monterey squad, which lost only one game throughout the day.
That one loss came to No. 4 singles player Simon Coelho, who pushed Dave Selin to a tie-breaking third game. Coelho eventually fell 6-1, 6-3, 10-5 in the final match of the day.
Despite the early finish, head coach Chris Yoder was proud of his team’s season-long improvement, he said.
“I thought the team, they had a really good season,” Yoder said. “They got better as the season went along. I’m really excited that we won our league. But this doesn’t surprise me — the outcome. They (Monterey) definitely deserve to go.”
The Balers and the Toreadors faced each other twice during the season — with Monterey taking both games by 5-2 scores. But Tuesday’s loss was different.
“We did what we could but this time there was just a little bit more pressure on us,” Skinner said. “The last two meetings, we always played to play, and this time it was win or go home. We have never been in that situation before. We’ve always murdered the other TCAL teams with no pressure, really, so to have this with all the pressure, we didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s a big change.”
The Balers were also missing some players, forcing the team’s lineup to be reconfigured.
“We are missing two guys, and I think that those two guys could have made a difference,” Skinner said.
The Balers seemed outmanned from the beginning.
No. 2 singles player Muzik struggled losing 6-1, 6-1 in straight sets to Robert Hernandez. Sophomore and No. 3 player Andrew Panger failed to score a point against Joseph Quario in a 6-0, 6-0 loss.
On the doubles side, the senior tandem of Jacob Panger-Eric Johnson, who did not play with each other all year long, lost to Ying Yang Wang-Javier Vargas 6-4, 6-2. Sonny Singh and Aaron Francis struggled to a 6-4, 6-2 loss as well.
Despite the loss, the team was proud of its TCAL Mountain Division championship.
“As a team, it was a great accomplishment,” said Singh, who will be a senior next year. “We knew since day one we wanted to get that championship. The seniors worked so hard since their freshmen year — this would be great way to end their season. I’m looking forward to next year.”
For the Skinner, the season was a good way to end four years of tennis, he said.
“This season was great,” he said. “We came out here wanting to win the league and we won the league, so this is all just extra stuff. As much as I wanted to win this one and try at CCS, this would have happened at CCS. Just to get there would have been cool, but we got where we wanted to be.”
He continued, “It was pretty awesome seeing how far we came as a team.”
To improve next year — possibly in the better of the two divisions in the equity league — Yoder expects to see his team use the loss as motivation.
“We are going to see a lot of the better teams next year and it will probably be a humbling experience for us,” he said. “It was good. I think it gives a little more experience and lets us know we have a little more to work on.”
That improvement starts in the summer, he said.
“I want to see some of younger guys get into some tournaments over the summer and fall,” he said, “and continue to work on their games because we are going to go up into the tougher league.”