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Oak Hills wins MRL title in tumultuous season
HESPERIA • The phrase "overcoming adversity" is one of the most overused in sports.
But it might not do justice to how the Oak Hills boys tennis team overcame a turbulent season to win its second straight Mojave River League title.
Playing under their third coach of the season and without multiple players who quit, the Bulldogs beat Hesperia 10-8 on Friday afternoon to clinch the outright league title and provide a happy ending to a tumultuous ride.
Oak Hills (10-1 MRL) opened the season under coach Brandon Staples, who guided the Bulldogs to the MRL title last year. Staples was arrested midway through the season for allegedly having sexual relations with a minor. His replacement Brenda Tilford quit after one match, and Jim Kutch, the Oak Hills girls tennis coach, took over earlier this month.
“It feels amazing after losing our coach ... and being able to come back and pull together as team,” said Oak Hills senior Jeremy Orescanin, the team’s top singles player. “All of these guys put a lot of work into this, and we came out here focused and wanted to win.
“When we first heard about Staples, we were just shocked and we had a group meeting and we told each other ‘Don’t let it affect our season.’ Thank goodness Kutch came in and took over the team and he helped us win today.”
In just his fourth match on the job, Kutch can now claim an MRL championship after stepping in and helping the team stay afloat after the turmoil.
“It was a very difficult situation and the team was in flux,” Kutch said. “It was a challenge just to keep the team intact, it almost fell apart.”
The Bulldogs and Scorpions (9-2 MRL) had split their first two matches of the season with each team winning 18 sets and 153 games.
While the final score was 10-8 for the third time this season, it wasn’t that close. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 5-1 lead that put them in the driver’s seat to claim the match and the league title.
“We had to come out strong because the last time we went down 2-4 and couldn’t quite make it up,” Kutch said. “That 5-1 start was key for us.”
Orescanin beat Hesperia No. 1 singles player Richard Mendoza 7-5 to set the tone, battling back from a
5-4 deficit against his friendly rival.
“I just told myself this is a big match, but I just need to have fun and open up and go for the big shots,” said Orescanin, who had split his first two matches of the season against Mendoza. “I wasn’t going to win playing defensively. I had to play offensively.”
While Oak Hills took control early, Hesperia didn’t go quietly. The Scorpions claimed seven of the final 11 matches, including a huge upset by No. 2 singles player Joey Adamiak.
Adamiak engaged Orescanin in a back-and-forth battle and eventually outlasted the Bulldogs’ leader
7-6, 7-3 in the tiebreaker. Orescanin had claimed the first two meetings between them this season 6-3.
“I just stayed patient, and when he hit a short ball I came to the net and stayed aggressive and put the shot away,” Adamiak said. “I felt that I had taken the advantage when I went up 6-5, and confidence is key.”
Hesperia’s No. 1 doubles team of Edwin Doering and Daniel
Ibarra recorded the only sweep of the day for either side, the first time they swept Oak Hills this year.
“Today Oak Hills played better. They jumped on us early and we recovered, but not enough,” Hesperia coach Jim Taper said. “It was too much of a gap to overcome. ... I’m happy with the way we played, we just started slow.”
The Bulldogs will
finish their season when they host Serrano on Wednesday. The Scorpions travel to Sultana on Wednesday.
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