|High Desert Tennis Association|
Clean sweep for Cougars in DSL tournament
By GERALD TANG / Staff Writer
APPLE VALLEY — Far and away the two best tennis players in the Desert Sky League met in the singles championship Friday, to the surprise of no one.
Silverado’s Ben Zagala would have liked to make it more interesting, but he ran into what must have seemed like an invincible opponent in good buddy Patrick McCray.
Playing on his home courts at Granite Hills, McCray waltzed through the first two rounds of the season-ending tournament before dispatching Zagala in the finals, 6-1, 6-2.
"Pretty much the whole match he was on fire," said Zagala, whose only two league losses this year came against McCray. "I'd hit great shots, and he'd get to them and hit better shots. He played awesome. I can't complain."
The rally of the match came with McCray leading 3-2 in the second set. Zagala closed in for an overhead, only to watch the ball sail over his head. He hustled back and made a spectacular save, then pinned McCray in the corner with a perfect approach shot.
But the Granite Hills senior somehow countered with a running backhand that barely cleared the outstretched racket of Zagala and landed inside the corner.
It was one of several instances when Zagala could only smile and applaud.
"That was the best two sets of tennis Pat’s played this year," Granite Hills coach Pat Jenkins said. "Even Ben came off the court and said he felt those were the two best sets he played today, and Patrick never gave him a chance."
Realizing his powerful flat serve would be erratic in the gusting winds, McCray hit all spin serves. So instead of racking up aces as usual, he consistently painted the lines with serves that put Zagala out of position.
That set up McCray’s vintage net game, which was on full display all afternoon. Leading 4-0 in the first set, McCray scored three straight points on a beautiful drop volley, sharp backhand volley and a half-volley off a short hop.
McCray double-faulted only three times, which was especially crucial in swirling winds that were so disruptive it was almost comical. One of McCray’s shots was on its way over the net when the ball looked like it hit an invisible wall.
"You kind of just have to laugh," McCray said. "If you're really serious and get ticked off every time the wind blows, you're not going to have any fun."
The season is not over for McCray or Zagala. By making it to the league finals, the seniors qualified for the CIF-Southern Section Individual championships in two weeks.