By the end of his junior year, Nolan McCaig has already been anointed the best tennis player in Ceres High history.
He had won the Western Athletic Conference singles championship three times and cut a path toward a college scholarship with his performances on the USTA circuit.
Still, there was one distinction, one feat that eluded him.
It haunted his every victory and fueled his workouts. For all that McCaig had accomplished, he still couldn’t call himself a Sac-Joaquin Section champion.
In his final appearance at the Division II Tournament, McCaig left no doubt, winning all three of his matches in straight sets to claim his first section championship. The Bee’s All-District Boys Tennis Player of the Year beat Luvdeep Bal of River Valley High in the final, 6-3 and 6-2, completing his tour de force.
“When I first stepped on the court, I was determined to dominate and play my game and do everything I could to win,” McCaig said. “Every single match, I wasn’t thinking about the wind or if something was hurting. I was focused and honed in on my game.”
After losing in the finals twice in 2014 and 2015 and then suffering a semifinal exit as a junior, McCaig experienced a rush of emotion following the conclusion of the tournament at the Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. He felt vindicated, relieved and, in the end, satisfied.
“I was starving,” he said. “I just really wanted it. I think that’s what helped me win over everybody in that tournament. I just wanted it more than everybody else. Throughout the years, I know I’ve come up short, but I really tried to use that as motivation.
“I picked pieces to improve each year – my mind and my shots. Every year, it’s helped me and given me the advantage.”
This season, McCaig punished the opposition with his forehand and speed, a lethal concoction. He finished the season 23-0 and saved his best tennis for the postseason. He rolled through the WAC tournament without yielding a game, and then beat Laguna Creek’s Henry Huang, Oakmont’s Marshall Comia and Bal in swift order en route to the section title.
“This year, I think I really stepped up my forehand,” McCaig said. “I’ve been able to put balls away when I had the opening. I’ve always had it (forehand), but the repetition in practice has helped me perfect it. During points, I’m able to get balls back, get balls back and then rip my forehand.”
While McCaig’s feat fills an empty space in his trophy case, it isn’t the first section banner to fly in the house.
Younger brother Coby McCaig of Modesto High was the 2016 All-District player of the year after taking the Division I section crown off the head of Modesto Metro Conference rival Ryan Lewis of Beyer High.
Together, the three have elevated the Stanislaus District to a place it hasn’t experienced since the late-1990s when Paul Dilloway of Beyer High won three consecutive D-I titles.
The older McCaig was determined to take his place in history. Bound for Midwestern State in Texas, McCaig wasn’t content with a local legend.
“I just went for it all this year,” he said. “I really had everything there; all the motivation to take finish this thing off. Winning the section title has made a huge impact on me. I think this will be really good motivation for me going into my freshman year.”
All-District Spring Glance
Tuesday, June 13: Boys golf
Wednesday, June 14: Boys tennis
Thursday, June 15: Swimming
Friday, June 16: Track
Saturday, June 17: Softball
Sunday, June 18: Baseball