Lady Wildcats defeat Liberty Madera Ranchos 6-3 in semis

    MADERA  — The Taft High varsity girls’ tennis team is back in the Valley finals for the third year in a row. Taft travels to No. 1 seed Selma for the 2 p.m. Valley championship game Wednesday.

The No. 3 seeded Wildcats beat No. 2 Liberty Madera Ranchos Hawks in the playoffs for the second year in a row Wednesday. The score was 6-3 and, aside from a slow start, the match was never really in doubt, Taft coach Jim Carnal said.

Taft No. 1 Taylan Erro lost her first two games to Renee Ortega, but then won 12 in a row for the 6-2, 6-0 win. Number 5 Roxy Barboza lost the first three games to Julianna Wilson, but then won 12 straight for the 6-3, 6-0 win. Taft lost a heartbreaker at No. 2 when Lupita Lozano fell to Martiza Rivera, 7-5, 3-6, 10-7.

“That one was particularly tough because Lupita was ahead 7-5 in the 10-point tiebreaker, but the girls lost track of the score and changed it to 6-6,” Carnal said. The Hawks’ athletic sophomore, Anne Hayes, beat Haven Cook, 6-2, 6-0. But Taft’s No. 6, Gloria Okafor, easily dispatched freshman Jennifer Elford, 6-1, 6-2.

Taft led 4-2 going into the singles round and just needed to win one of the three doubles matches to win overall. But that was exactly the opposite of last year’s final between these two teams.

“The parents and fans of Liberty Madera Ranchos were celebrating after the singles round as if they had won the match,” Carnal remembered. “Then we swept the doubles last year for the 5-4 win. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be ironic if they returned the favor this year.”

But it wasn’t to be.

If there was any irony, it was that Erro and Griselda Ramos took care of Hayes and Emily Williams at No. 2 doubles as the sun set literally on their season, 6-1, 6-3, to seal the win as darkness approached. South Sequoia League double champions Lozano and Barboza added icing to the cake with a hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 10-5 win over Ortega and Rivera at No. 1 doubles. Madera’s Nathalie Corpus and Jocelyn Wilson beat Okafor and Karina Amaya, 6-3, 6-4, to round out the scoring.

 “The returning varsity players who won the school’s first Valley championship last year, Taylan, Lupita and Roxy, always do great. Taylan and Roxy won both their matches,” Carnal praised. “Gloria has the best singles record, 19-6, so she is always dependable. And Jen has really stepped up her game. She is undefeated in her two playoff matches and both were wins against girls who get tennis lessons and had beautiful groundstrokes. Mixing up a variety of shots, Rivera outplayed the technically better players. Jen refuses to lose.”

Taft improved to 18-8 while Liberty Madera Ranchos dropped to 12-3.