By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Long rallies, three-set matches and another Maria Carrillo girls tennis win Tuesday confirmed the Pumas as favorites for a third consecutive North Bay League title.
While rival Montgomery pushed the hosts, Maria Carrillo is stocked with talent and could fair better in section play compared with recent North Bay prep champions.
“We’re pretty deep. We’re more fit. This year we hope to improve,” said Fu Long, who won a challenging top singles match with the Vikings’ Jennie Tong.
With badminton great Tong back on the tennis courts, Montgomery is a solid second-place squad. Tong and Julie Guillaumin have traded turns atop the Vikings singles ladder.
“We have a good team. It’s been fun,” Tong said. “I don’t like losing, but I just do the best I can.”
With the 6-1 win match win, Maria Carrillo appears headed toward an undefeated run in NBL play. Montgomery’s only losses have been to the Pumas.
Also playing strong has been Cardinal Newman, with league newcomer Casa Grande and Santa Rosa battling in the middle. Windsor, joining Casa Grande from the Sonoma County League, is young and improving.
“The league’s a little deeper now. It’s nice to have more competitive matches in your league,” said Maria Carrillo coach Bob Harbaugh.
“There’s good competition. It’s going to help team’s improve,” said Montgomery coach Mary Lehman.
The toughest league competition for Maria Carrillo is Montgomery. While the Pumas took the first meeting without dropping a match, several contests were close. Tuesday’s play was even tighter.
After winning the first set 6-0 over the shot maker Tong, the hard-hitting Long needed to battle back from a three game deficit to take the second set 6-4.
“I realized I was trying to do too much, hitting unforced errors. I just had to out rally her,” Long said.
Long was best when coming to the net for volleys and pounding the corners to keep Tong on the run. Yet few shots got by the quick Tong, who slices and lobs with assurance when not attempting passing shots.
“It’s fun to mix it up,” Tong said. “I look forward to playing her in the NBL singles.”
Another pair of players who should go deep in the league tournament played on the next court in the number two singles. Tressa Thomas held off Guillaumin in a three set match that extended over both the singles and doubles sessions.
After controlling the first set 6-2, displaying a particularly strong backhand, Thomas wilted under Guillaumin’s more aggressive approach in the second set. The Montgomery player took the set 6-4 — winning the last five games in succession.
Striking balls from the baseline and seeking passing opportunities, the pair swapped momentum throughout the match. Thomas prevailed in the third set 6-3, taking the final three games with some sure shot making, typically after long rallies.
Another tight match was in number one doubles. Maria Carrillo’s team of Sierra Barnachea and Makenna Paule needed another three sets to put away Montgomery’s top pair, Sami Eberhart and Delaney Seymour.
“It took a lot of fighting. We just had to relax,” Makenna said.
What makes the pair difficult to defeat is their complementary play. Makenna has a strong serve and volley game. Barnachea has a powerful backhand and digs out shots.
“It takes a lot of practice and consistency,” Barnachea said. “We’re getting there.”
North Bay League match play runs through mid-October.
NBL singles tournament: Oct. 17-18, Santa Rosa High School
NBL doubles tournament: Oct. 24-25, Santa Rosa High School