KINGSBURG - A week after sweeping its opponent, the No. 2-seeded Kingsburg girls tennis team had a tougher time against No. 6 seed Mission Oak on Oct. 31 in the CIF Central Section Division V semifinals.
Kingsburg came out on top with a 5-4 victory in a match that finished under the lights at 8 p.m. The Vikings claimed the victory after No. 2 duo Zoey Van Buerden and Hannah Hjelm won their doubles match 7-6, 6-0 over Elizabeth Ramirez and Madisen Bowen.
Kingsburg advanced to the Division V title match for the second-straight season and played Firebaugh for the championship on Nov. 6 (after press time). Firebaugh entered the matchup as the top-seed and it was the second consecutive year both teams compete against each other for the title.
As for the semifinals match against Mission Oak, Van Buerden and Hjelm were down 6-5 in the first set, but prevailed and score two straight points to win
When the girls were down 6-5, Vikings head coach Tom Gramza said his No. 2 duo was “overplaying,” which made him tell the girls to “just relax and play.”
“It was all over after that,” Gramza said. “They did that down 6-5 [in the first set], but once they got it, they realized ‘Hey were overplaying.’ So on the second set, that’s the kind of doubles that we can play and they won it 6-0 pretty handily.”
Gramza said the team could’ve sealed the victory in singles, but he gave credit to Mission Oak for battling back in doubles.
“They kept fighting,” he said. “They’re a scrappy team.”
Kingsburg had a 4-2 lead after singles, but the Mission Oak Hawks rallied back, winning the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles matches to tie it up 4-4.
The No. 3 match was the first to be concluded in doubles, which resulted in Hope Stockton and Sydney Smith losing 1-6, 0-6. The No. 1 duo of Madeylnn Gunland and Raine Palomino were the other Kingsburg pair that lost, losing 0-6, 1-6.
After both matches concluded, all eyes were on Van Buerden and Hjelm competing against Ramirez and Bowen.
Van Buerden said she felt the pressure on the court, but communication between her and Hjelm helped her stay focused.
“It was stressful at first, but my partner and I were just talking to each other” Van Buerden said. “You just have to block out everything, so we just focused on the game and not on the people. So we starting playing really well towards the end.”
After a tough first set, Van Buerden and Hjelm had no problem against the opposing Hawks duo, sweeping Ramirez and Bowen 6-0 in the second set.
With parents and coaches from Mission Oak cheering the Hawks, Hjelm said it took awhile to block out the noise, but once her and Van Buerden did, they relied on their chemistry.
“We just had to know what the other person was going to do at all times,” Hjelm said. “We’ve been playing together for awhile this entire season, so it was kind of easy to know what the other person was going to do and kind of go off of that.”
Van Buerden and Hjelm were also victorious in their singles matches. Van Buerden, the team’s No. 1 player, defeated Mariana Salazar 3-6, 6-3, (12-10). Hjelm won the No. 4 singles match against Ramirez in a 6-2, 6-4 result.
Gramza said no what matter what happens in the Division V title match, his girls had a great season.
“The amazing thing is they really overachieved,” Gramza said. “I don’t know any other team in the Valley that could drop their No. 1 just before the season starts. Now here we are in the final. We finished higher this year in league than we did last year without our No. 1.”
“The girls, they worked hard. They stepped up, they were really nervous about it in our first couple of matches, but they rose to the occasion and they worked hard and it’s been good.”