OJAI, Calif. – The circumstances were eerily similar for defending state champion Danielle Garrido on Sunday in the California Community College Athletic Association Women’s Tennis championship at Libbey Park.
Same court, same time, same day of the week, same opponent and same state title on the line. Garrido, the No. 2 seed from San Diego Mesa, was battling No. 3 Clarissa Colling of Orange Coast, whom she had rallied to beat 7-6 (7), 6-2 in last year’s final.
Garrido overcame a 5-4 first-set deficit in 2016’s final match. This time, she trailed 5-3 in the opening set and after winning her serve, she fought off three set points on Colling’s serve to tie the set at 5-5.
There were lots of long rallies in the 20-25 stroke range. Garrido held serve to take a 6-5 lead, then broke Colling’s serve for the third time to secure the grueling 7-5 victory.
Garrido went on to post a 7-5, 6-1 triumph for her second straight CCCAA title. San Diego Mesa has won three of the last four state trophies with Sophia Najera winning the school’s first title in 2014.
Garrido became the first back-to-back state champion in 12 years, since Michelle Esquivel turned the trick in 2004-05 for Santa Ana and Orange Coast.
“It feels so good to be the champion again,” said Garrido. “I feel like all my hard work has paid off. I’ve been fighting walking pneumonia and a couple of injuries this week.”
Garrido is 18-0 this year and undefeated in her two-year community college career (39-0) without losing a single set. She won six matches over four days to claim this year’s state title with a 73-12 game record.“I was really nervous because this was the last match and there’s a lot of pressure,” Garrido explained. “You’re playing in front of a lot of people here and I feel like every move or shot is criticized.
“It’s smart to try to keep a player like me who’s short back behind the baseline. To tell you the truth, I kind of spaced out in that game when she had three set points. The more I thought about it, the worse I played. I didn’t even focus on the score, I was just going one point at a time.”
Garrido had two service breaks in the first six games of the second set and took a 5-1 lead when Colling hit wide right at 30-40. She built a 40-15 lead on her serve in the next game and won the match with a perfect lob over Colling, who had charged to the net.
“It was really the same as last year,” said San Diego Mesa coach Marc Pinckney. “Danielle didn’t play all that well by her standards, her forehand was off all week. She played well at the end of matches.
“They had a perfect game plan with Clarissa playing really far back. They were trying to keep Danielle from getting her angles but she did a good job of adjusting.”
Pinckney said that Garrido has had “a bunch of college offers” but she hasn’t made a decision yet.
Colling played in the doubles semifinals at 8 a.m., just three hours before the singles final. She and partner Karen Trinh fell to top-seeded Mayra Jovic-Abby Mullins of Santa Monica in a marathon match, 2-6, 6-1, 10-6 in the super tiebreaker.
Jovic, the 2015 state singles and doubles champ, and Mullins went on to beat Veronika Galstyan-Tsukimi Ono of Glendale in an All-Western State Conference final, 6-4, 6-3.