Rancho Bernardo High teammates Ashley Chao and Carissa Bernhardt each had their own pressures entering the CIF San Diego Section Doubles Championships.
Bernhardt won the doubles title with Wakana Tanaka last year, but that run happened while the duo was under the radar. This year, Bernhardt entered as the No. 1 seed and the target set square on her back along with the expectation that she wins.
Chao, a junior transfer from Westview, had the enormous pressure of replacing Bernhardt’s championship partner.
Both proved to be up to the task.
Bernhardt and Chao completed their run through the doubles bracket with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 victory over La Jolla’s Colleen Mellenger and Taylor Mohardt to claim the section title on a windy Saturday afternoon at Barnes Tennis Center.
“This one is special because last year I didn’t really have expectations so I didn’t feel pressure,” said Bernhardt, a sophomore. “This year, there was a little more pressure to do well.”
“I definitely felt the pressure,” explained Chao. “Carissa won it last year and I was the new partner so I felt pressure to win.”
The Broncos’ tandem had their hands full with the fifth-seeded duo from La Jolla, but seized control of the match with a thrilling first-set win in an 8-6 tiebreaker. Bernhardt and Chao took the momentum from there and rolled to the 6-2 match-clinching victory in the second set.
“That was a huge weight off our shoulders after winning that set,” said Chao, whose blistering backhanded smash pulled the Broncos even at 6-6 in the first set. “It was such a tight set and it was really close.”
Bernhardt and Chao dropped the first two games of the first set before rallying to win the next four. The Vikings fought back, though, winning the next two games to tie it up at 4. That’s when the back-and-forth battle began, as neither duo was able to pull away by more than a game.
La Jolla grabbed a brief 6-5 lead, but Chao held serve to force the tiebreak. The Broncos looked like they were going to run away with the tiebreaker, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. But the Vikings battled back and eventually pulled even at 5-5 and then at 6-6.
Chao then split Mellenger and Mohardt with a forehand for a 7-6 lead. Bernhardt followed with the set-clinching shot and the Broncos never looked back.
“There were swings throughout that whole set so we were just trying to keep our game,” Bernhardt said. “Once we got the momentum back in our favor we were trying to get as many games as possible.”
Both players will be returning to Rancho Bernardo next year, but might try their luck in the singles championships.
“I think I might play singles next year,” Bernhardt said. “We will see.”