Taft loses 8-1 to Selma

    SELMA  — The Taft High varsity girls’ tennis team came up short in Selma as the Wildcats attempted to defend their 2012 Valley title. Number 1 seed Selma beat the No. 3 seeded Wildcats, 8-1, in a match that was closer than it sounded.

“Selma was just a bit better than us in most every spot,” Taft coach Jim Carnal said. “Still we had some chances slip through our fingers.”

Roxy Barboza earned Taft’s sole win at No. 5 singles over Aliza Cambunga, 6-3, 6-0. “The key to the match was the two third-set tiebreakers we lost in singles. We had leads in both of them.

 If we had won those and it had been 3-3 after singles, we would have stacked the bottom two doubles with top players and had a good chance to win,” Carnal lamented.

Taft’s No. 1 player Taylan Erro got off to a slow start and lost to Taryn Araki, 6-2, 7-5. Lupita Lozano dropped the first set to Tori Cisneros, 6-2, but fought back and won the second set, 7-5.

Lozano had a 7-4 lead in the 10-point tiebreaker but then lost six of the next seven points to lose, 2-6, 7-5, 8-10. “That was the match,” Carnal said, “because we had to go 3-3 to have a chance to win it in doubles against a team as good as Selma. There was just no margin for error. We had to win all the close ones and we didn’t win any of the close ones.”

At No. 3 singles, Haven Cook lost to Natalie Gonzalez, 6-3, 6-2. At No. 4, junior Jen Rivera lost to Chrissy Mendoza, 6-3, 6-0. Taft was clinging to life at No. 6 singles.

Junior Gloria Okafor dropped the first set to Lia Lopez, 1-6, but Okafor then settled down and patiently won the second set, 6-3. Okafor had to win to keep Taft’s slim hopes alive. She got off to a 6-4 lead in the 10-point tiebreaker, but then lost six points in a row, most by hitting just a few inches long. Selma won the match, 5-1, after the singles round.

Then Selma swept the doubles. Araki and Cisneros outlasted Erro and Lozano, 2-6, 6-0, 10-6. Gonzalez and Mendoza beat Barboza and Griselda Ramos, 7-5, 5-7, 10-8. And, Lilia Martinez and Samantha Sauceda beat Rivera and Karina Amaya, 6-1, 6-4.

“We lost all four third-set tiebreakers,” Carnal said. “We needed to win all four for Taft to have won.

“Selma was an excellent team. Their coach, Debbie Sultenfuss, said the team was almost entirely seniors and that most were on varsity since they were freshmen.” Selma finished 21-4; Taft finished 18-9. It was Taft’s third year in a row in the Valley finals.

“After six of our nine players graduated from the championship team last year,” Carnal said, “I thought we would be doing good to make the final four teams in the Valley playoffs.

No one likes to lose, but these girls had an outstanding season and coaches Bill and Linda Friend, Doug Taylor and I are very proud of them.”