El Capitan freshman Jenasis Yarrell overcame two rain delays to outlast Golden Valley’s Chadue Lee 6-1, 6-4 in the Central California Conference singles championship at the Brenda Athletic Club on Thursday afternoon.
Yarrell breezed through the first set and was up 1-0 in the second before rain stopped the match for over an hour. Yarrell was later two points from winning the match when rain delayed play for another 20 minutes.
“Personally, I’d rather not have rain delays,” Yarrell said. “I’d rather keep on going. I don’t like to stop. I was in a groove and felt I was in control of the match, then we had to stop and warm up again.”
The second set was much more competitive as Yarrell struggled with her shots and Lee started to find her rhythm. It led to some long rallies.
Lee prolonged the match with an ace on a second serve to cut the lead to 5-4 on a match point.
“Who does that on a second serve?” Yarrell joked with her parents during the second rain delay.
“It took me a little bit to get my groove back,” said Yarrell about the hour delay. “I felt (Lee) was playing better also after the delay. She was making less errors and it was harder for me to keep the ball on the court.”
Yarrell said her strategy against Lee was to out-rally her and try to let Lee make the first mistake. The strategy worked early as she won the first set easily.
However, Lee made her work in the second set.
Both Yarrell and Lee dominated the rest of the field Tuesday to reach Thursday’s final.
Yarrell defeated Turlock’s Michelle Gomez, 6-1, 6-0 in the first round and Pitman’s Ashley Byers 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Yarrell bested Turlock’s Rebekka Cripe, 6-0, 6-0.
Lee knocked off Buhach Colony’s Madison Hicks, 6-1, 6-0 in the opening round and then El Capitan’s Dana Villanavna, 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Lee followed that with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Turlock’s Maya Young in the semifinals.
“I’m excited and ready to go to sections,” Yarrell said. “I heard there are some really good players. I’m excited to face that type of competition. I had a lot of fun in this tournament.”
Yarrell is 14 years old and has been playing tennis since she was 7. Her father convinced her to take a break from it last year, so she tried other sports such as basketball and track and field.
Yarrell lived in Georgia for 11 years before moving to Canada, where she spent two years before moving to Merced in July.
“I like Merced,” she said. “I’ve been able to adjust and make some friends. I’m learning my way around this place. I’ve never seen so many farms.”
Yarrell started playing national tennis tournaments at 11 and was ranked as high as fourth in Georgia in the 12-and-under junior rankings by the United States Tennis Association.
She feels the break from the sport has helped her game.
“I was playing tennis week after week, consistently,” Yarrell said. “This past year I’ve just worked out a bit and did other sports. I’m taller, stronger and smarter. I think it’s helped improve my game.”