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Barstow's Earl wins DSL singles title

VICTORVILLE • The Desert Sky League boys tennis finals had the making of a soap opera plot Thursday afternoon.

A bit of revenge and a long, drawn-out drama.

Barstow’s Nolan Earl won in singles, beating Victor Valley’s Miko Potes, 6-0, 6-3, to make amends for a loss in the finals last year.

In doubles, Victor Valley’s Maki Potes and Oscar Bernal survived a back-and-forth, 14-12, tiebreaker to hand Granite Hills Caleb Kulasxa and Smit Patel their first loss of the season.

Both singles players and doubles teams earn spots at CIF-Southern Section Individuals held May 23 at the University of Redlands.

Granite Hills dominated the league all season, going unbeaten as a team in DSL play, but came up empty when it came to individual titles.

Earl had to withdraw in the second set due to cramping in last year’s loss to Miko Potes. He had no such problems this year as he easily dispatched Miko Potes with a strong serving game.

“I felt the relief because of last year and the rematch,” Earl said. “Being able to close it out is really nice.”

The singles field was wide open. All the top four seeds had beaten each other at least once during the season.

Granite Hills’ Rishi Nanda earned the first seed and teammate Alla Alaghbir had the third seed, but the two ended up meeting in the consolation finals — where Alaghbir won 0-6, 6-3, 6-3. Nanda fell in the semifinals to Earl, who was seeded fourth, 7-5, 6-1.

It was Barstow’s first singles title since Tiago Serapiao won in 2009. Barstow coach Leah Johnston said Earl looked ready for a title entering the match.

“The main thing he had to deal with was the mental block that he had,” Johnston said. “Physically, he was ready. He had the performance level, he had the skill and he just had to combat that mental block. I had every confidence he was going to walk away going to CIF today.”

This year Miko Potes was the one with cramping issues. He said he felt pain in his quad and worried about pulling it. Victor Valley coach Lisa Crosby asked him if he wanted to retire in the second set, but he said he was fine and didn’t make any excuses after the match.

“You just have to gut it through,” Miko Potes said. “Where I felt like it was messing up was where you can’t bend. I felt like I could move to most balls, but bending to it was a problem sometimes.”

Kulasxa and Patel entered the tournament with a 36-0 record during the DSL season. However, they hadn’t faced Maki Potes and Oscar Bernal. The two Jackrabbits were mostly singles players throughout the year, but joined together for the DSL Finals with goal of winning a title.

It worked. Potes and Bernal won the first set 6-2 and had visibly frustrated the Granite Hills duo. Kulasxa and Patel recovered for a 6-2 win of their own in the second set.

The marathon was just beginning. Kulasxa and Patel were back in a groove, jumping out to a 3-1 to start the third set. But Potes and Bernal hung around and took a 4-3 lead.

Kulasxa and Patel took a 5-4 lead only to have Potes and Bernal win the next two games for a 6-5 lead. The teams tied at 6-6, sending the match to tiebreaker.

Granite Hills took a 3-0 lead to start the tiebreaker before Potes and Bernal tied it up. The teams traded points from there. Both teams had their chances to end the match. There were several unforced errors and double faults.

After 26 points, Potes and Bernal finally took the doubles title when Kulasxa’s volley went into the net.

“Caleb wasn’t playing his best today and we took advantage of that,” Maki Potes said. “His serves were going out. (He had) frustrations. I’ve seen him play, he’s a lot better. We took advantage of that.”

It was Potes and Bernal’s second three-set match to go to a tiebreaker that day. They beat Granite Hills’ No. 2 doubles team of Bryce Kulasxa and Noah Kowalski in the semifinals 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (3).

As for what he planned to do after winning, a tired Bernal just said sleep.

“I can’t feel my feet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maki Potes sounded like he still had energy to go.

“It’s OK, I’ve played longer,” Potes said. “I play at the park all the time.”

At Silverado
Earl (Ba) def. Mi. Potes (V) 6-0, 6-3.
Alla (G) def. Nanda (G) 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Earl (Ba) def. Nanda (G) 7-5, 6-1.
Mi. Potes (V) def. Alla (G) 6-3, 2-6, 6-0.
Ma. Potes-Bernal (V) def. C. Kulasxa-Patel (G) 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (12).
Vu-Flatbo def. (Bu) def. B. Kulasxa-Kowalski (G) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
C. Kulasxa-Patel (G) def. Vu-Flatbo (Bu)
Ma. Potes-Bernal (V) def. B. Kulasxa-Kowalski (G) 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (3).

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