(Walnut, CA) Every once in a while, top seeds can take a tumble. That's exactly what happened at the CCCAA State Men's Tennis Championships in Ojai.
The unseeded Mt. SAC doubles freshmen team of Riley Lizardo and Shawn Ramirez, after receiving a bye in the round of 128, jumped right in to the round of 64 by defeating the No. 13 seed with a 7-5, 6-3 win.
The pair of Micah Erwin/Kaison Lum, playing for Northern California tennis powerhouse American River College, entered the season-ending tournament with high promise. However, Lizardo/Ramirez played the match of their lives and advanced to the round of 32 with the 2-0 sweep.
"It was huge (the win) just to do it," Lizardo said. "It was something we've never done before and brought us closer together because of the state tournament."
"It was one of the most exciting matches I've been in."
Ramirez, who is 25, and hadn't played competitively since high school echoed Lizardo's excitement. "I was in surprise and awe."
Ramirez made a statement on the first point of the match to the heavy-favored American River duo.
"I knew that coming into the match that they were going to be tough," Ramirez said. "They served first and I made a statement with a hard return shot over the net for the winner."
Focusing on playing for one point at a time, Lizardo/Ramirez took a surprising, 5-2 lead in the set, but the American River pair came right back with three straight wins to tie things up at 5-5.
Lizardo then came up with the play of the match with a shot between his legs, known as a "tweener," which gave them a 6-5 lead, changed the momentun.
"My energy was super loud," said Ramirez, who inspired by his girlfriend, Alina (Merito) returned back to the college at age 25. Merito, also 25, is a member of the Mt. SAC Women's Swimming & Diving Team.
After the "tweener" by Lizardo, the pair won the final game to win the first set, 7-5. Their fan base suddenly grew bigger and bigger, mostly from Ramirez' energy. Between the El Camino Tennis team, which was watching the Mt. SAC pair, and a growing crowd of students from Hueneme High School, everyone cheered on the Mountie duo.
In the second set with the score tied, 2-2, the Mounties reeled off three straight wins to lead 5-2. The American River pair won the next game to close within two, 5-3.
With a 40-love lead and Ramirez serving, American River returned Ramirez' serve, but Lizardo finished off the match with a hard passing-shot down the line for the 6-3 win.
"We looked at each other and yelled. We were really hyped," said Lizardo, who had worked with Ramirez for three weeks leading up to the state competition.
The victory sparked much conversation and was the talk of this years state championship.
On why Ramirez selected to attend and compete for Mt. SAC...
"I grew up in the area and attended Charter Oak High and had known about Mt. SAC," Ramirez said. "My parents, who immigrated here, went to Mt. SAC and the rest of my family did too.
"I checked it out and knew about all of the state championships in the other sports. That just inspired me to attend."
On a side note, the Mt. SAC duo of Lizardo/Ramirez lost in the round of 32, but their big upset will remain with them forever.
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For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.