It was a good night for former Desert Valley League singles champions on Tuesday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Defending champion Tiani Jadulang of Xavier Prep validated her post as the DVL’s best, topping Palm Desert’s Claudia Stepien 6-3, 6-2 to win the singles title. The 2013 DVL singles champion, Palm Desert’s Jenna McDonald, pulled off a rare feat, adding a DVL doubles title to her trophy case. She teamed with Jackie Lacy to capture the doubles title. The senior duo defeated a sophomore tandem also from Palm Desert, Halle Van Natta and Carolina Alfonsin, 6-2, 6-4.
For Jadulang the win didn’t come as easy as the final score might indicate. She finished it off with an impressive forehand winner, finally putting away a gritty Stepien.
“I’ve known her for a long time and every time we played we’ve had amazing battles,” Jadulang said of fellow junior Stepien. “She can get to everything and she can really stick in there. She’s tough.”
The repeat title was one of the goals Jadulang had for the season, and she appreciated that maybe it didn’t come as easily this season as it did last season when she went undefeated throughout league play.
“It feels pretty great in that I hoped to play as well as I did last year, and I think I did,” Jadulang said. “Last year I went undefeated, and this year I didn’t (she lost once to Palm Desert’s Alfonsin) but this year there were more tough opponents and it just gave me more of a strive to get the title. Yeah, undefeated would have been nice, but I think I’m a better player now than I was at this time last year.”
Jadulang won 8 of the last 10 games in her finals victory. Stepien had reason to be exhausted. To make the final, she needed a taxing semifinal victory over Palm Springs freshman Shekinah Deffon (7-5, 5-7, 6-3) that lasted two and a half hours. It was an important win for Stepien as only the top two players get an automatic bid to the CIF individual tournament. Jadulang beat Palm Desert’s Alexia Rodriguez 6-4, 6-2 in the other semifinal, which was a rematch of last year’s DVL title match. Rodriguez later topped Deffon for third place.
The doubles final proved that the calm that comes with partnering with your best friend can be an advantage.
The laid-back duo of McDonald and Lacy were in control of the match most of the way, even though they had to admit that when they play Van Natta and Alfonsin in practice they usually finish on the losing side.
The doubles title also came with a bit of redemption for Lacy who had finished second the previous two years at the DVL individual meet.
“I think I like finishing first better,” she said with a laugh. “It’s awesome. Jenna is my best friend so that makes a difference. It’s a lot of fun playing with her, and we really wanted this being seniors and our last year.”
McDonald agreed, saying that they have great chemistry. McDonald put “chemistry” in air quotes, not because she didn’t believe they have chemistry, but because she knows that’s what winning doubles teams always say. But in this case it was true.
“I’m pretty mellow and we’re generally calm players, and I think that helps us out on the court,” McDonald said. “I like doubles more than singles in that I like going to the net a lot which is good for doubles and I like having someone to celebrate with when we do something good.”
I’d say a DVL title qualifies.