Nolan and Coby McCaig’s pursuit of Sac-Joaquin Section history got off to a fast start Monday morning at the Johnson Ranch Racquet Club.
Nolan, the Ceres High dynamo and four-time Western Athletic Conference champion, is the No. 1 seed in the Division II tournament and automatically advanced to the second round when his opponent failed to show.
“It makes me proud being the No. 1 seed and labeled the best in tournament by the seeding committee,” said Nolan, who defeated Henry Huang of Laguna Creek in straight sets to advance to Tuesday’s semifinal.
“It motivates me and makes me want to live up to the No. 1 seed.”
Coby is the reigning Division I champion, but oddly enough, the Modesto High sophomore won’t be favored to repeat.
That pressure falls on top-seeded Chethan Swanson, a highly-touted senior from Folsom. Swanson has committed to UC Davis.
Coby, a four-star prospect still building a college resume, is the No. 2 seed.
“As far as I’m concerned, seeding is just a number,” said Coby, who won sections a year ago as the No. 4 seed. He beat No. 2 Ryan Lewis of Beyer in three sets in the final. “The No. 1 seed obviously plays in a higher-age division than me, so it could have gone either way. I’m just going to play my matches and try to win.”
Coby, a crafty left-hander, opened his title defense with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Tracy’s Tyler Shih.
Coby sputtered at the start, but soon found the same groove that carried him through an unbeaten regular season and to an unblemished run at the Modesto Metro Conference Championships.
The victory was his 18th of the season.
“He played a good match,” Coby said of Shih. “I started off a little shaky; just couldn’t get my game going.”
The McCaig brothers are looking to become the siblings to hold Sac-Joaquin Section singles titles simultaneously.
Recent history has favored the Stanislaus District. In 2015, Lewis became the first district player to win a Division I singles title since Beyer’s Paul Dilloway completed his three-peat in 1999.
Then, Coby burst onto the scene, avenging a loss to Lewis in the MMC final and stripping him of his crown.
Now, the McCaigs will look to house the two major titles under one roof. Nolan, undefeated in 20 regular-season matches, is also hunting his first section crown.
The Midwestern State-bound senior has come close twice: losing to Sean Alves of Casa Roble in the 2014 final; and pushing two-time champ Hermont Legaspi of Inderkum in 2015.
The opening day of the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships featured two rounds.
The tournaments will resume Tuesday with the medal rounds – the semifinal and final for the divisions I and II singles and doubles tournaments.
Nolan punched his ticket with a purposeful victory over Huang. After cruising through the WAC tournament without losing a game, Nolan wanted to keep that level of confidence.
He beat Huang 6-2, 6-0 and will play Marshall Comia of Oakmont in the semifinal.
“I was pretty excited, just knowing this is my last year,” Nolan said. “I went in confident that I would get to the next day and keep it going.”
Coby tangled with Jasper Murphy of Davis in the second round. The result wasn’t available by press time.
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