STOCKTON — An Escalon High tennis player was going to win a Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 title no matter what Friday.
The only problem for the Cougars was deciding when to cheer.
Escalon freshman Taylor Laugero defeated teammate Parker Pilati for the section crown at Oak Park, winning 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
"Parker and I sometimes play in practice, and she usually beats me," Laugero said. "But, it's practice. When I come to tournaments, I've got my game face on. I'm focused on every point.
"I feel like I just stayed mentally tough. I thought to myself, 'I cannot let up.' I just had to keep going. We had some long rallies."
It extended a string of success for the program, which saw Kaitlyn Brayton win three consecutive titles (2007-09) and Jack Berry win at boys singles last year. The boys doubles team of Rafael Felix and Zach Mando defended their section title on Friday, beating a pair from Colfax, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
The Cougars will continue their pursuit of a team title in the section quarterfinals, playing Ripon Christian on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the Ripon Community Center.
While Laugero said she tried to stay away from Pilati's strong forehand on Friday, Pilati said was unable to make Laugero slip up.
"She definitely minimized her errors," Pilati said. "She didn't make hardly any mistakes at all."
Pilati admitted feeling sapped by the end of the match. Laugero credited her fitness from volleyball with keeping her going, particularly after Pilati picked up momentum by winning the second set.
Laugero plays volleyball with the Delta Valley travel team out of Lodi, which recently qualified for Junior Olympics in July. It will be Laguero's third JO appearance.
While the duo usually play point matches in practice, they agreed practice is different. Pilati said they usually go after shots they wouldn't normally pursue in a game situation. They had never played each other with a title on the line.
"It was very awkward," Pilati said of meeting in the final. "Our team didn't know who to root for. She's just so sweet and everything, but we both get really mad on the court. We basically told each other (before the match) that no matter what happens, it all stays on the court."