St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High’s Caroline Casper leans to hit the ball back to Palo Alto’s Aashli Budhiraja during the second set of their match Monday at the Courtside Club in Los Gatos. (Glenn Cravens/Register-Pajaronian)
LOS GATOS — Caroline Casper said she overall had a great tennis season but hoped she could have done better on Monday’s opening round of the Central Coast Section singles tournament at the Courtside Club.
The St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High sophomore was ousted in straight sets by third-seeded Aashli Budhiraja of Palo Alto 6-3, 6-3.
It was Casper’s first and only loss of the season.
“I had some good points, but I didn’t play as well as I wanted to,” Casper said.
In both sets, Casper led early and matched Budhiraja only to see the Palo Alto junior pull away with sideline winners that wore her down.
In the second set, Casper started out strong, winning the first two games. She had an ace in the first game to pull even at deuce and then outlasted Budhiraja in a lengthy rally. Casper then took advantage of four second serves by Budhiraja.
Budhiraja answered back by winning the next two games to pull even at 2-2. Casper retook the lead with a sweep. As the two players switched sides, a tournament official, who oversaw line calls, left the court.
The tournament official was called to the court midway through the first set. With Budhiraja up 3-2 and 15-0 in the first set, the two players had a lengthy rally. A Casper return skipped before the baseline, and Budhiraja called it out. Casper questioned the call but Budhiraja implored that the ball went too far. The match was stopped as an official was called to the court.
By then, the tide had turned to the Palo Alto player who mixed up returns up at the net and at the baseline.
After the line judge left in the second set, Budhiraja took control, hitting corner returns to Casper. While Casper did get to the ball, she hit a lot of them wide or short.
Casper got an ace in the final game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the match going. Her final return stopped at the net.
“I served pretty well and had some good strokes, but I wish, mentally, that I hung in there,” Casper said.
Despite the loss, Casper (15-1) said it was a fun season, one in which she won a second consecutive Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League championship.
St. Francis coach Gay Finch said she was proud of Casper for doing all she could to get to this point. Casper was one of just three Santa Cruz County representatives in the CCS singles and doubles tournament this year.
“She’s doing well, but this is a tough tournament,” Finch said. “She’s so talented, and she’ll learn from this.”
Scotts Valley’s Serena Strehlke and Desi Rakela rallied to win their opening round doubles match over Monterey’s Daisy Aquino and Madison Hampton 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Strehlke and Rakela fell behind early in losing the first set but changed the pace in the final two sets to grab the match.
In the next round, the Scotts Valley duo was eliminated by Milpitas’ Christi Tang and Lina Ye, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, 6-0, 6-0.
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