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Yuka Perera of San Marcos Beats Dos Pueblos’ Mikala Triplett for Channel League Singles Title

Santa Barbara's Claire Stotts, Laura Dragone capture doubles championship

Yuka Perera is congratulated by her San Marcos teammates and coach after winning the Channel League singles title. Click to view larger
Yuka Perera is congratulated by her San Marcos teammates and coach after winning the Channel League singles title. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The first six games of the Channel League girls tennis individual singles final were just how Dos Pueblos sophomore Mikala Triplett wanted it to go — a baseline slugfest.

But San Marcos junior Yuka Perera had other ideas. At 3-3, she ripped a shot that was volleyed out of bounds and then won the next point to take a 4-3 lead. She then took a deep baseline shot and fired a forehand that Triplett returned long.

Perera would go to win the next six straight points en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory for the championship at the Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club.

It was the second title in three finals appearances for Perera. She won as a freshman.

“It means a lot because it was taken from me last year,” Perera said of reclaiming the title. “It feels good to take it back.”

In doubles, Santa Barbara’s Claire Stotts and Laura Dragone upset top-seeded Maya Krishnasamy and Isabella Francis of Ventura, 6-4, 6-4, for the championship. In the earlier semifinal, Stotts and Dragone handed San Marcos’ Kelly Coulson and Samantha De Alba its only loss of the season, 7-6, 6-1. Coulson-De Alba had won 48 straight sets. 

Perera had beaten Triplett in the two regular-season team matches, so she expected the third meeting to be tougher.

Yuka Perera prepares for a forehand return against Mikala Triplett of Dos Pueblos. Click to view larger
Yuka Perera prepares for a forehand return against Mikala Triplett of Dos Pueblos. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

“It was definitely tough because I was behind the whole set and she was serving really well,” Perera said of the early part of the final. “The court was pretty fast, so the balls were coming extra fast and (Triplett) was playing really well. After 3-all, my nerves start to calm down andI was able to play better tennis.”

Perera made a subtle change in her return shots and it made a huge difference in the match.

“The difference was in the first few games I was aiming too low over the net,” she explained. “So, I aimed 1-2 feet higher and it made harder for her  to take the balls on the rise.”

As a result, Triplett couldn’t get as much power on her shots.

“She was hitting really high to my backhand too, so I wasn’t really setting up, moving back and taking it lower. That kind of messed me up,” said Triplett.

Perera grabbed the momentum and never let it go.

“I felt a lot looser, especially after I broke her because I was behind the whole set, because she was serving first, Perera said. “Now that I had a little cushion I felt I could serve better, I could move a little bit easier. There was a little bit of pressure that came off me. It was lucky that I broke first.”

Mikala Triplett follows through on a serve during Channel League final. Click to view larger
Mikala Triplett follows through on a serve during Channel League final. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

San Marcos coach Andrea Rifkin was so impressed how Perera turned the match around she felt no need to talk to her during the breaks.

“She has so much self control,” Rifkin sald. "It’s really unusual for a 16 year old to have that kind of maturity, whether (the momentum is) up or down, you couldn’t tell by watching her.”

Perera won the first four games of the second set before Triplett dug deep and took the next two.

“I told myself I’m going to get a game. I wasn’t going to go down 6-0,” said Triplett.

“In first three games, we were rallying a lot and I was taking the ball and putting it away,” she explained “After that she started making me hit more balls. We had longer rallies and that’s when I messed up. She was really good at changing the pace and moving me around, switching it up on me.”

Perera and Triplett and the doubles finalists advance to the CIF-Southern Section Northern Regionals at Cate and Carpinteria High.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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