LEMOORE — One by one, the Lemoore girls tennis team made their way through the Tiger Tunnel and were met by cheers and applause from teammates and parents.
The ones who received the loudest cheers of all, and appropriately so, were the six seniors at their final home match of their high school career. The seniors were Lizeth Garcia, Lizbeth Flores, Jolene Simas, Mariah Avina, Elizabeth Ramirez and Holly Cassina.
It was senior night, but there would be no senioritis as the Tigers came out strong and defeated Golden West, 7-2, on Thursday.
“I always get emotional, it’s kind of one of those final things,” Lemoore coach Carla Bow said. “I try to give them that finale to their high school experience. They’ve brought different little sparks … it’s been a fun little experience.”
There were six oversized paper tennis balls taped to a wall, each with multiple messages of love and memories written in marker by their teammates. The seniors took them home after the match.
Garcia, a two-year varsity player, said the thing she’ll miss the most about her team was becoming friends with them and building their bonds. She’ll also miss the relationship she had with her coaches saying, knowing that they have your back and just the love and support that they give you.
But even with all the pregame pictures and hugs, there was still a match to be played — not that it took long. Winners of five of their last six matches, Lemoore (14-4, 9-2 WYL) came out strong and quickly took four of six singles matches.
Needing one of three doubles matches to secure a team victory, Lemoore went out and finished strong by swiping all three. The previous time the two teams met, on September 11, the result was similar with Lemoore winning 6-3 on Golden West’s court.
Madison Kuntz, Lemoore’s No. 1 singles player, won her match 6-3, 6-4 and moved well on the court. Kuntz attacked the ball when she needed to and didn’t make many mistakes at the net.
“I just ran up to the net a lot and I tried to do a powerful volley,” Kuntz said. “I sliced it a lot because [my opponent] couldn’t get to the ball very well.”
No. 2 singles player Garcia finished her final home stand with a 6-4, 6-3 victory and lamented on her time with the team after.
“I’m sad, obviously, that this is my last home match, but being a part of this team has been a great experience,” Garcia said. “I know that the girls next year will do great.”
Garcia added that she’s hoping to go to UCSB or Fresno State to major in criminology after high school.
No. 5 singles player Aliana Cabuhat won her singles match 6-1, 6-0 and No. 6 singles player Paige Clarke won hers 6-0, 6-0.
The No. 1 doubles team of Kuntz and Garcia made quick work of their match winning 8-2. Cassie Cervantes and Flores, the No. 2 doubles team, were right behind them with an 8-3 match win.
Simas and Clarke had the toughest doubles match of the day, which went to a tiebreaker, but they finished strong with an 8-7 (7-5) win.
With the win, Lemoore locks up the No. 2 spot in the West Yosemite League standings and will have their last match at Hanford (2-9, 2-8 WYL) on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“They’ve exceeded my expectations as far as [the season] goes,” Bow said. “I knew we would go into playoffs, but I wasn’t sure how they would perform. We’ve had a few slumps along the way, but they’ve still stepped up when they needed to.”