HERMISTON — Though a likely state doubles contender was mounting a comeback two courts away, the tennis match of the day at Hermiston High on Wednesday played out between the Pendleton and Hermiston No. 1 singles girls.
The Buckaroos’ Jessica Clark and the Bulldogs’ Zoey Garcia took their match to the limit for the second time in two meetings this year before Garcia could fend off the visitor. Garica won 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 10-8 in a pair of tiebreakers.
A clash of styles, Garcia slow played her way through the match with arching lobs that ran Clark through every inch of the back court. The Buck would in turn slam the ball back to Garica, who would defensively send it looping back across the net.
“I just waited for her to make the mistake by keeping it in play and keeping it consistent,” Garcia said.
The ploy held. Clark made two unforced errors — sending a ball into the net and then one long over the back line — for the final two Hermiston points.
Garcia also beat Clark 11-9 in tiebreakers on April 5 in Pendleton in the girls’ last meeting, which gave Hermiston a 5-3 victory.
Wednesday’s was a nerve racking game, Garcia said, and one that outlasted every match but the last two doubles despite its top billing. It would be the only singles victory for the Bulldogs, who swept the doubles portion of competition for the 5-3 victory.
In doubles action, Hermiston’s power duo of Sarah Hawman and Emily Stocker stalled their engine in the first set against Bailey Bixler and Miranda Muller. The Bucks moved out to a 4-1 game lead against the Dawgs who were hitting balls out of play more often than usual.
“We realized we weren’t getting the right spin on our ball,” Stocker said. “We just fixed those and started spinning them in and letting them make the first mistake.”
After the adjustment, Hermiston didn’t lose another point in the match, rallying back for a 6-4, 6-0 victory. The Pendleton girls had been trying to avoid allowing Stocker or Hawman to make plays at the net, but the Bulldogs slowly forced them to leave tennis balls floating meekly near midcourt, ready to be hammered.
“Our intention was to lob them,” Bixler started.
“...because last time they creamed us at the net,” Muller said. “But I think they figured that out and they became prepared for overhead hits.”
Hawman in particlar swung through some devastating spikes. She scored the final two points of the first set with up close slams. Those including one slam that careened off the hard court with such force that by the time the ball stopped bounding, it rested at the feet of some practicing Hermiston discus throwers in the track and field area nearby.
“That one was pretty nice, I did like that one,” Hawman said. “A good bear claw. Tennis is here!”