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Colts keep on cruising: Undefeated Cañada women’s tennis team wins playoff opener

Colts keep on cruising: Undefeated Cañada women’s tennis team wins playoff opener
April 06, 2016, 05:00 AM By Terry Bernal, Daily Journal
Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Cañada’s No. 1-ranked singles player Joelle Huelse serves in her 6-0, 6-1 win in the Colts’ first-round playoff victory over Chabot Thursday at Cañada College. With the win, the Colts improve their undefeated record to 16-0.
Even though upstart Cañada College is new to the community college women’s tennis ranks, the Colts walked into Tuesday’s postseason opener as a cool and confident group.

As well they should. Not only did the Colts — in being reinstated as an official California Community College Athletic Association program after a 15-year hiatus — go unbeaten through 15 regular-season matches this season. The mostly-freshman squad boasts plenty of playoff experience previous to arriving at Cañada.

Tuesday, Cañada, the No. 2 seed in Northern California, extended its undefeated winning streak to 16 with a 6-3 win at home over No. 7 Chabot.

The Colts now advance to the Northern California semifinals to host No. 5 Modesto, with a shot to play for the Nor Cal championship on the line. The projected destination for the Nor Cal title game is No. 1 Fresno City.

“I have all the confidence in the world for us,” Cañada sophomore Claire Stoner said. “I don’t think any of us expected this level of play in our conference. Now it will be a good challenge going forward playing Fresno, or whoever it is.”

Stoner — the team’s only sophomore as a transfer from the Division-III program at Dickinson College-Pennsylvania — clinched Tuesday’s win with a smooth 6-0, 6-1 victory over Mari Fowler in the No. 4 singles match.

But it was the team captain’s gritty win in doubles play earlier in the day that set the tone for Cañada. Aside from the eight-player team enduring some injury woes as of late, the Colts’ undefeated season has been smooth sailing for the most part.

However, Cañada arrived Tuesday to a bit of a roster crisis. With three international players on the team, freshman Ana Hinojosa was slated to return Tuesday morning from spring break in her native Veracruz, Mexico. But Hinojosa got held up at customs due to an extraordinary amount of people traffic at SFO.

With the delay, Hinojosa didn’t arrive for the start of doubles play. So, for the first time this season, Stoner had to play with a different doubles partner, freshman Erin Winn.

With Cañada splitting its other two doubles matches, Winn and Stoner paired to sway the advantage to the Colts heading into singles play by earning an 8-6 win via the no-ad scoring system utilized in collegiate doubles play.

“I’m excited about the way they pulled together with one of our girls being delayed,” Cañada head coach Rick Velasquez said. “They were able to hold up and pull together as a team.”

Stoner’s playoff experience shined through. She has plenty of it. As a freshman at Dickinson in 2014, she served as the No. 2 singles player on a team that advanced to the Centennial Conference playoff semifinals. And while the native of Shelburne,Vermont played at Champlain Valley Union High School, she played on four state championship teams, including playing as the No. 1 single during her final two seasons.

Facing Chabot’s Fowler and Melissa Young, Winn and Stoner trailed 6-5 in a battle that saw service break after service break. With Winn stepping to the service line, she finally prevailed to tie it 6-6. The Cañada tandem then followed with another service break to take a 7-6 lead, before Stoner finished it out at the service line, capped by a match-ending backhanded volley by Winn.

The win giving Cañada the advantage heading into singles play — during which the Colts would sweep through the first four match results — was an important swing of momentum, according to Stoner.

“It helps so much to get a strong start in doubles,” Stoner said. “You have some confidence going into singles play and it makes the other team feel like they have to make every point count.”

Cañada No. 1 single Joelle Huelse locked down the first singles win of the day with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Young.

Huelse — a native of Herne, Germany — is a lifer on the tennis court. She played club tennis throughout her prep years in Germany and won a club championship as the No. 2 single in her final season there. She moved to the U.S. to pursue a collegiate playing career, as there are no opportunities to play sports at German universities, she said.

The fluid 5-10 freshman said she studied English in high school, but still has trouble understanding people talking to her in her second language. She is currently enrolled in ESL classes. She seems to have no trouble talking tennis though.

“I really like it here,” Huelse said. “It’s better than Germany.”

In the day’s other matches, Cañada’s No. 1 doubles Huelse and Diana Barcelata won 8-1 over Hailey Agulay and Sunny Zhou; and Joanna Peet and Karyn Bechtel lost 8-0 to Chabot’s Laura Oca and Rita Kerwin.

Cañada No. 2 single Barcelata defeated Agulay 6-1, 6-0; Cañada No. 3 Hinojosa — upon arriving from the airport — defeated Zhou 6-3, 6-0; Chabot No. 5 Kerwin defeated Peet 6-0, 6-0; and Chabot No. 6 Indra Erdenekhuyag defeated Bechtel 6-2, 6-0.


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