Justin-Siena girls tennis head coach Jim Reilly wanted his team to get ready for the North Coast Section playoffs by playing Piedmont or a team of the Highlanders’ caliber during the regular season, but playing outside of the Vine Valley Athletic League carried too many COVID-related risks.
After going undefeated in the VVAL for the fourth straight season, however, the 13th-seeded Braves managed only two doubles wins as No. 4 Piedmont prevailed 5-2 Wednesday in a first-round match played at Justin-Siena because the Braves were the league champion.
“I was concerned about playing out of league because if (they were under COVID-19 protocol) and couldn’t play for two weeks, we could have lost some league matches,” Reilly said. “My focus was winning the league, getting better, and going to sections. These were evenly matched teams today. We just came up a little short.”
The Highlanders — who finished third in a West Alameda County Conference led by Bishop O’Dowd — won the top two singles matches, with No. 1 Bridgette McEfet beating Bella Rampa, 6-0, 6-1, and No. 2 Anne Jumper downing Bryn Hogan, 6-3, 6-2.
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The Braves won the other two, as No. 3 Naveena Jackson outlasted Michaela Bini, 6-2, 6-7 (10-8), 6-4, and No. 4 Jess Beaulac defeated Anika Gilliland, 5-7, 6-3, 5-5 ret.
But Piedmont swept the doubles matches. The No. 1 pair of Audrey Mahany and Amanda Becker beat Megha Jackson and Tatum Newell, 6-4, 6-4. At No. 2, Mara Laforie and Rose Siemens pulled out a marathon, two-tiebreaker match over Carina Dunbar and Kendall Manasse, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3). Piedmont’s No. 3 team rallied past Maggie Cooke and Michaela Pucci, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
“There were a lot of good points – third doubles went to three sets,” Reilly said. “To host a playoff match and have three freshman singles players on the young team we had, they performed exceptionally. We had a great season, the girls were committed, practices were competitive and fun, parent participation was great, the administration was great. I couldn’t have asked for a more well-rounded season, and we’re losing one senior (Rampa) out of 19 girls.”
Six of the Braves also play basketball, including Beaulac.
“Jess wins her third set, grabs her basketball and goes right to basketball practice — after playing tennis for 2½ hours. That’s commitment right there,” said Reilly, a longtime basketball referee. “We encourage multiple-sport athletes here at Justin.”
University Prep 3, Justin-Siena 0
The 15th-seeded Braves finally saw their season end with a 25-14, 25-23, 25-18 road loss to the No. 2 Panthers in the first round of the Northern California Division IV playoffs Tuesday night in Redding.
University Prep went on to also sweep No. 7 Ripon Christian on Thursday, improving to 39-5, to advance to the NorCal final against No. 14 Tamalpais (27-12) on Saturday.
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