ATASCADERO — After defeating Nipomo 8-1 in the CIF Central Section Division 2 girls tennis team opening playoff round the previous week, the fourth-seeded Atascadero High School Greyhounds advanced to the semifinals with a 5-4 win at home over San Joaquin Memorial.
AHS previously faced San Joaquin Memorial this season in a tournament in Clovis and won narrowly but they were playing in the old Southern Section format and it was before Atascadero lost one of their top players in Noella Breytenbach who was out for the season with an ankle injury.
“This is a pretty even match for us,” Atascadero head coach Lori Bickel said during the singles matches on Tuesday, Nov. 5. “We played them in the valley in the old format. We beat them but not by a lot. So coming into today we were just cautiously optimistic that we could do it again but I think we know that everyone has to be able to play the game they know how to play in order to win.”
On Oct. 30, the Hounds faced off with Nipomo in the first round and rolled to an 8-1 victory where every girl on the team contributed as Atascadero swept the singles matches which allowed coach Bickel to mix and match her doubles teams with the match essentially in hand.
That was not the case on Tuesday, Nov. 4, as fifth-seeded San Joaquin Memorial split the singles matches in Atascadero, putting all of the pressure on the three doubles matches remaining.
Breytenbach continued her dominant run defeating the Panthers No. 1 player 6-2, 6-2 but surprisingly her win was not the most dominating performance of the day as that honor belonged to senior Camille Redberg who played in the No. 5 position and won 6-1, 6-2.
Every other singles match on Tuesday was a back-and-forth battle as the parents from each team that made their way to Heilman Park to watch erupted in brief, although respectful cheers for good shots and points won.
“The girl that Haley [Long] played today was the same girl that Noella played and they had a really tight match the first time and unfortunately Haley couldn’t win that one today but she played really well,” Bickel said.
Long kept playing hard but unfortunately, San Joaquin Memorial’s Gabbie Martinez was too strong winning 6-3, 6-0.
The next court over featured Isabella Sanchez in the No. 3 position and Kyla Stokes in the No. 4 and just as the two teams split the matches on court one, they did so again on court two. Sanchez outdueled her opponent earning the Hounds a point with a 6-3, 6-4 victory while Stokes battled in a third-set tiebreak but ultimately lost 6-7, (2-7), 6-4, 8-10.
Atascadero’s No. 6 player Micaela Sanchez went three sets and came up short falling 6-3, 4-6, 5-10.
With the Hounds needing two wins in doubles, Bickel had Breytenbach play with Isabella Sanchez in the first doubles match and Long and Micaela Sanchez in the second slot and cruised into the semifinals as Atascadero won both matches handily.
“I couldn’t be more proud of everything that they are doing,” Bickel said. “And what I really like about today is that they are just out there competing. Win or lose they are playing the game and they are making their opponents play the game which is just everything that I would ever want them to do.”
On Thursday, Nov. 7, the Hounds travel to Sanger to face the No. 1 overall seed in the Division 2 playoffs. Should the Hounds pull the upset there is a chance they would have two local-ish teams in the final as Atascadero would likely face St. Joseph in the final on Nov. 12.
On Friday, Nov. 8, Breytenbach will travel to Bakersfield to play in the CIF Central Section singles tournament. The senior is seeded fifth in the tournament and will face Bakersfield- Centennial’s Aleyna Young in the first round and could potentially get one more shot at Arroyo Grande’s Peyton Dunkle, who is the No. 2 overall, in the quarterfinal.