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Tennis Preview - Brains Of The Operation
3-28 OAK Tennis Prev1
Oakdale High senior Paul Perrone carries an impressive academic rsum, and is also a whiz on the OHS tennis court. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE LEADER

After involvement with Oakdale High’s Academic Decathlon Team, Rotary Interact, Science Olympiad, Model UN … (deep breath)…  4-H, the Gay-Straight Alliance and California Scholarship Federation, it is no small miracle that Mustang senior Paul Perrone finds enough time to finish his homework and play varsity tennis.

Either Perrone has successfully cloned himself and split the duties from each activity, or he lives in a tent outside his first classroom.

“I have been fortunate enough to be involved in programs that see the benefit of the other side of things,” Perrone said. “They allow me some minor concessions to make my life a little easier. So for example I can miss a study for a tennis match or come out to tennis a little later so I can do something else.

“It’s a balancing act, but somehow our community has a lot of support for its standouts and that has really helped me achieve everything.”

This year’s AcaDeca Stanislaus County overall points leader isn’t just a star student. He also leads the 2012 Mustang tennis team from the No. 1 singles position and sported wins in each of Oakdale’s last two matches against tough Valley Oak League foes.

Perrone bested East Union No. 1 Mitchell Liawanag 6-4, 6-2 during a 6-3 Oakdale win on March 20 in Lancer territory. Oakdale No. 2 Jared Firstbrook claimed 6-2, 6-4 wins while Josh Niendorf was a 6-3, 6-3 victor as well.

Oakdale’s doubles teams also shined in the match. Andrew Gilpin and Daniel Martinez captured 6-3, 6-7(5-7), 6-4 wins while Sergio Gutierrez and Miguel Barajas won in 6-2, 6-1 fashion. Frank Rossier and Miguel Rosales won 6-4, 6-0 to wrap meet scoring.

The Mustangs went on to fall 3-6 to Kimball two days later after Kimball singles players claimed five of the six match wins. Perrone was down 0-1 after a 4-6 first set loss, but bounced back with 6-2, 6-1 wins over Kimball’s Kevin Sung to land Oakdale’s only singles victory. Gutierrez and Barajas earned team points after a pair of 6-2 wins while Rossier and Rosales overcame a first game loss by rallying to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 overall victory.

The loss dropped Oakdale to 2-3 on the season. Oakdale had slipped to league favorites Sonora and Manteca to open the season, but rebounded with an 8-1 make-up win over Sierra on March 21. Firstbrook (6-3, 6-3), Chandler Johnson (6-4, 6-0), Jeremy Willinger (6-3, 6-1), Niendorf (7-5, 6-3) and Gilpin (6-4, 6-3) all claimed singles wins. Barajas/Gutierrez (6-1, 6-2), Robert Nabors/Rosales (6-1, 4-6, [10-4]), and Rossier/Trae Folla (6-1, 4-6, [10-5]) all landed doubles wins. Perrone struggled to a 1-6, 3-6 defeat to Sierra standout Forrest Tolman.

The loss did little to shake coach Grant Miller’s faith in the lanky senior talent at the No. 1 singles position.

“Paul is a tough matchup for anybody because he’s built like a pterodactyl,” Miller said. “He takes one step and he covers either side of the court. He’s a smart player and he will put spin on the ball if he thinks it will confuse his opponent.”

Miller said Perrone is one of three solid seniors (also Firstbrook, Willinger) that anchor his singles lineup. It’s a new squad to work with; since Miller took 2011 off to coach his son’s little league baseball and basketball teams. Now in his 17th year as a tennis coach, Miller hopes to see Oakdale compete with the best teams in the conference and slip somewhere into contention for one of the top positions in the league standings. His singles lineup also includes No. 3 Johnson (junior), No. 5 Austin Clayton (sophomore) and No. 6 Niendorf (sophomore). Niendorf has the benefit of siblings involved in the same program.

“I had two of Josh’s older brothers on my team and that is a good tennis family,” Miller said. “Josh is still getting his feet wet as a sophomore but he will be tough.”

When Oakdale is healthy, Gilpin (junior) and Daniel Martinez (junior) lead the unit of doubles tandems. Juniors Gutierrez and Barajas operate well together from the No. 2 singles spot while the likes of juniors Rossier, Rosales and Folla often combine for a solid third doubles combination.

“We are junior strong, and next year should be our year,” Miller said. “All these kids are learning from our seniors.”
Oakdale was at VOL stalwart, Weston Ranch, on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time. The Mustangs are at Manteca on March 29.