A senior and freshman from Stockdale High School teamed up to take home the Central Section girls’ doubles tennis championship on Saturday.
Erica Paradise, the veteran, and Greta Krueger, the greenhorn, proved to be a formidable one-two punch against the area’s top competition.
On Saturday, at Buchanan High School in Clovis, the duo battled back from a 1-0 deficit to knock off the Clovis North tandem of Jordan Pickett and Ashley Cardot in the Section semifinals.
Then it was onto the championship round, where the No. 1-seed from Stockdale topped Clovis’ Kelly Crouch and Tori Mueller 6-1, 6-4.
Paradise and Krueger have known each other for about 11 years — Krueger said they met when Krueger was 3 years old — and have played the game together for most of their lives.
“Ever since we were kids, when her dad would coach me,” Paradise said. “We’re really close friends. When there’s a bond between two doubles players, that goes into helping you win a match.”
Said Krueger, “We’ve built this really tight trust. So we can really rely on each other to get the ball, to win the point.”
After clinching the Section title, the two players held a modest celebration. They shook the hands of Crouch and Mueller, posed for photos, and hugged family and friends on the sidelines. Immediately following, they said they were more relieved than anything else to take home the title.
It was a war of attrition for the Stockdale team. After falling big in the first set of Saturday’s semifinals, Paradise and Krueger got it together to dominate the final two against the No. 4 seed out of Clovis North. Then it was onto the championship, where they faced the No. 2 tandem from Clovis.
In Set 2 of the title match, Paradise and Krueger fell behind 4-1 while playing tentatively. They huddled up with head coach Dave Hillestad, however, and rattled off wins in the next five games to take home the crown.
“We both needed to relax and stop being so tight,” Paradise said. “Just go for it at the net and be more aggressive in our playing.”
To battle back twice in one day, against the top competition in the Central Sections, was no small feat.
“Kept reminding them, you’ve got to fight till the end. They came back and won the semis,” said head coach Dave Hillestad. “(The championship) they were down 1-4, and I kept reminding them, it’s not over. You have to keep fighting and stay positive.
“They have no quit in them. And because they have no quit in them, and they fight to the end, they fought back and got the second set. Two amazing comebacks in one day to win this title.”
For the senior Paradise, the championship adds to a winning tradition at Stockdale. She reached the championship round as a sophomore doubles player two years ago before playing singles last year. In 2017, she grabbed the doubles title.
It marked the third Central Section girls doubles championship for Stockdale during Hillestad’s 10-year tenure at the school.
“It just feels great,” Paradise said, while sporting a wide smile in the glow of victory.
Bakersfield High doubles team finishes fourth
The No. 3-seeded Drillers team of Margo Kuney and Kate Kelly lost in Saturday’s semifinals to the Crouch/Mueller tandem from Clovis 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. They then dropped the third-place match to Pickett and Cardot 6-2, 6-2.
Head coach Julio Mercado said Kuney and Kelly came out in the first set of the semifinals a bit nervous.
He said they played better in the second match of the day, but that Pickett and Cardot picked up their level of play.