Porterville beats TUHS, play CVC in Valley title match Tuesday

It came down to one simple thing — get the ball over the net.

That’s all Jewelia Maniss and Jazlynne Medrano needed to focus on to secure a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the No. 3 doubles and send sixth-seed Porterville High School girls tennis to the CIF Central Section Division III Championship match with a 5-4 win over seventh-seed Tulare Union.

At home playing the final match in Thursday’s semifinal, the Panthers duo started both sets down 1-0 but remained unbothered and kept playing.

“Gotta just keep playing, playing through the moment,” Medrano said. “Focus on the play ahead.”

Maniss added, “(We tried) not to look ahead and get ahead of ourselves, and just try to get it over the net and get it in.”

The pressure was on for the two, with the match tied at 4-all after Union won both the No. 1 (6-0, 6-3) and No. 2 (6-4, 6-2) doubles matches. Playing that final, game-winning match was “stressful” for Maniss and made Medrano “nervous” but once they got that final point they could breathe again.

“It was a relief,” Maniss said. “And we’ve been waiting for this since our freshman year. It was very exciting.”

“It turned us up for Valley,” Medrano said, with Maniss jumping in to also say, “It turned us up!”

Maniss was also a part of the team’s crucial wins in singles. In the No. 3 match, Maniss defeated her Tribe opponent 6-2, 6-4.

PHS head coach Kurt Nielsen admitted that with Union’s No. 1 Maddie Rodriguez (6-1, 6-0) and No. 2 Jaci Maze (6-2, 6-3) being so strong, and the team having never beaten the duo in singles or doubles -- whether separate or together -- it was important Porterville (19-5, 8-2 EYL) got the four wins in singles.

“I didn’t like my chances,” he said. “Even though we worked on it at practice, I didn’t like my chances. I’m trying to get every one of those wins. …. People in sports always talk about matchups and all I can say is we couldn’t have lost any of those points. We had to win (No.) 3, 4, 5, 6.”

Also helping to take the Panthers to Valley with their singles win was No. 4 Erica Palad (6-0, 6-3), No. 5 Zeila Rivera (6-3, 6-1) and No. 6 Liz Martinez (6-0, 6-1).

It was Porterville’s third match against their East Yosemite League opponent, and the scorecard looked nearly identical except for how one-sided the scores were for Porterville. In Maniss' previous two matches with Union she won in a tiebreaker, while Palad and Martinez also need tiebreakers to win their singles’ matches in the second round of EYL.

“Based on the scores, last time we played them there were some third set (tie) breakers like 10-8, 11-9,” Nielsen said. “And here it was like straight sets. Nothing’s as easy as it looks on paper but I was surprised how well the girls played in singles.”

Up next the Panthers travel to top-seed Central Valley Christian Tuesday for their first Valley championship match in eight years. The Cavaliers beat fourth-seed Mt. Whitney 5-4 in their semifinal match.

For Porterville, regardless of who they play, making it to Valley is an accomplishment in itself.

“It felt like a big accomplishment,” Maniss said. “Especially since we’ve been wanting to go since we came into high school and before.”

Nielsen added, “Right now (Valley is) just whipped cream and a cherry on top. We’re just happy.”

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