West Ranch’s Jordyn McBride and Golden Valley’s Justine Dondonay highlight league match

Golden Valley's Justine Dondonay returns a volley in a matchup with West Ranch at West Ranch High School on Tuesday. Cory Rubin/The Signal

While the other five sets were over and done with at the end of the first round, a crowd gathered to watch a battle between two of the best players in the Foothill League.

After almost an hour of point-for-point rallies that had both players gassed by the finish, Jordyn McBride of West Ranch defeated Justine Dondonay of Golden Valley 7-5. As a team, the Wildcats beat the Grizzlies 16-2 to maintain their undefeated league record.

The set between McBride and Dondonay is one that will be remembered for a long time, as each player left it all out on the court. Both players served exceptionally well and were able to move the ball around the court with a flurry of powerful forehands, backhands and perfectly executed drop shots.

“It was incredible tennis. You didn’t know who was going to win each point. Each point was set up beautifully,” West Ranch head coach Dina McBride said. “It came down to the last volley or overhead, the execution points. But both girls played their hearts out. Truly one of the best matches of the season.”

McBride, who is currently ranked as the No. 61 junior in the country by The Tennis Recruiting Network, took an early 2-1 lead against Dondonay, who is currently ranked as the No. 52 junior in the country.

Dondonay didn’t let up and was able to take a 3-2 advantage after winning two games in a row.

“It was very close and very tight and kind of nerve-wracking,” Jordyn said. “It was just good tennis. The rallies were long and tons of hard hits.”

Dondonay pushed her lead to 5-4, but the strings on her racquet broke, causing a stoppage in action while Golden Valley head coach Josh Stimac got her a replacement.

It gave McBride enough time to regroup and work on her strategy, as she went on to beat Dondonay in the next three games.

Despite falling behind, McBride kept the mindset of winning crucial early points, which paid dividends in the end.

“I was just thinking, ‘Keep fighting. Get the first two points because those are very important. If you don’t get those it’s hard to get back,’” Jordyn said. “Grind the first two points and have room to hit harder. But no unforced errors in those two points, that’s what I was thinking.”

While the end result wasn’t what Dondonay was hoping for, Stimac was happy that his No. 1 singles player had the opportunity to go up against one of the league’s best.

“You have contrasting styles. Justine attacks the ball and Jordyn is very defensive and turns her defense into offense very well,” Stimac said. “It’s good to see Justine out there getting a good set in, getting a really competitive set in.”

Dondonay went on to win her other two sets 6-0 against Shaira Busnawi and Chase Eisenberg of West Ranch, giving Golden Valley its only two points of the day.

Despite getting swept, Busnawi and Eisenberg played Dondonay well, often initiating long rallies and winning big points.

“Shaira and Chase are progressing very well. Justine is amazing so for them to compete with her, it makes them so much better,” Dina said. “It gives them another person they can learn from and play against. It’s great having more competition. It just makes the whole valley stronger.”

After her first set, McBride was given the rest of the afternoon off, as sophomore Ashley Tonthat subbed in for her.

At the end of the day, everyone was still talking about the epic clash between McBride and Dondonay.

Earlier in the year when Dondonay decided to transfer to Golden Valley, no one was happier than McBride. She knew that the competition would pay off for both players.

“I remember when she was telling me that she was going to move here and I got so excited because it’s just better competition,” Jordyn said. “It benefits us both. At the end of the day, it’s more balls and it’s more practice.”

Golden Valley will face Valencia on Thursday on its home courts, while West Ranch will travel to Canyon for its next league matchup. Both matches start at 3 p.m.

Valencia 13, Hart 5

Valencia maintained its second-place standing in the Foothill League with a victory over Hart on Tuesday afternoon.

Valencia’s No. 2 singles player Brenna Whelan won all three of her sets, dropping only two games in the process.

For the third league match in a row, Hart’s No. 2 doubles team of Jennifer Russell and Stefani Woll won all three of their sets. Mansi Sharma and Cameron Schwartz, who normally play singles, teamed up and won a set 6-4 against Ashley Villarta and Kirsten Kieu of Valencia.

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