VENTURA -- The Orange Coast College women's tennis team showed the heart and grit of a champion on Wednesday, defeating De Anza College, 5-4, to win the state title at the California Community College Athletic Association Women's Tennis Team State Championships, hosted by Ventura College.
It's almost fitting for the Pirates (19-2), winners of 12 straight to have the 5-4 score reflect their final match of the season, for this was a championship team defined by solid team play and the ability to wear down the other team from the top to the bottom of their lineup.
In fact, Coast had nine dual matches end at 5-4 and the Pirates won eight of them, a true testament to the character of this team.
"We had five sophomore returners and to see how far this team has come over the past two years, to be named state champions is an incredible feeling," OCC head coach Chris Ketcham said. "We really had to work as a complete team to get this done. We were 19-2, but this was not a team that dominated its opponents. We just had to find a way to five wins each match and we managed to get that done more times than not."
Taking on a Dons program that was No. 1 out of the north and champions of the Coast Conference and 15-2 overall, OCC knew its hands were full, more so with the absence of one of their key players heading into the title match.
"I told the girls we were going to be shorthanded on the bus and I didn't hear a complaint out of any of them," Ketcham said. "They were focused, the adjusted and they were ready to take care of business."
The Pirates and Dons started things in doubles play and once the three matches were over, Coast carried an important 2-1 lead in this race to five wins.
Clarisa Colling and Karen Trinh, the No. 3-ranked doubles team in Southern California, rolled to an 8-4 win over the team of Lina Nguyen and Mieka Huizinga. De Anza took the No. 2 doubles, but at No. 3, OCC's JoAnn Taylor and Samantha Newhall showed the depth of the Pirates with an 8-3 win over the team of Yoyo Huang and Sharon Cao.
"The two doubles wins was so important because to be up 2-1 means you only need a split in singles," Ketcham said.
In singles play, Colling had little trouble with Lina Nguyen and cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win, while Newhall topped Cao, 6-0, 6-2, putting the Pirates just one win away from their first state women's tennis team title since 2005-06.
But of course, this didn't come easy as the Dons on at Nos. 3-4-6 singles to even the match at 4 and leaving the state title in the hands of OCC's Trinh or De Anza's Mimi Nguyen at No. 2 singles.
In the opening set, Trinh (14-2 in singles play in 2017) fell behind 2-5 and was just one game away from dropping the first set before finding a formula of success to rally back into the match.
Trinh, the 2017 Orange Empire Conference singles champion, showed the heart of a champion and ripped off five consecutive games to escape the opening set with a 7-5 win.
In the second set, again, Trinh fell behind at 2-3, and again, the OCC sophomore stepped up and took control of things with both teams and the entire crowd watching their every move.
Leading, 5-3, Trinh had double-match point at 15-40, Nguyen, who came into this match with only two singles losses on the season (9-2) battled back to force deuce.
"When it got to deuce, there was no panic from Karen," Ketcham. "She went back to work and managed her game so well out there. Her opponent was very aggressive, so she had to know when to play conservative and know when to counter-punch and she that perfectly for the last two points."
Finally, after regaining the advantage back, Trinh sent a tough shot back to Nguyen, whose return shot sailed long, giving the match to Trinh and the championship to the Pirates.
"This was a girl (Nguyen) that Karen would've had no business beating last year, but this shows you how far she's come, both mentally and physically," Ketcham said about Trinh. "Even with everyone watching her and basically the state championship resting on her shoulders, she showed no pressure and continued to be aggressive at just the right time."
This is the ninth women's tennis state title for the Pirates in school history (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2006) and the 88th state team title in OCC school history.
"This group was so emotionally stable and that was the key for this team's success," Ketcham said. "They competed well, they fought well and they were able to break down their opposition with their stability. Never did I hear a complaint out of any of them. They were truly a joy to have for the past two seasons and to end their team careers with a state title is the perfect ending for this group.