FIREBAUGH - The 2-seeded Vikings fell short of repeating as champions after losing 6-3 to the top-seeded Firebaugh Eagles on Nov. 6 in the CIF Central Section Division V Championship.
It was the second straight season the two teams played each other for a title, but Firebaugh got its revenge after losing 6-3 in last seasons championship match against the Vikings. The Eagles ended its season at 24-1 overall and 12-0 in the West Sequoia League.
Kingsburg head coach Tom Gramza said he was proud of the girls effort against a tough Firebaugh squad and that they displayed great character after the loss.
“A lot of close ones, a couple of tiebreakers, one went our way and one didn’t,” Gramza said. “A couple of close matches, again, that could of gone our way, but didn’t...it was closer than what the score indicated.
In singles, Kingsburg went down 4-2, which meant the Vikings had to win all three doubles matches to claim the victory.
Kingsburg got off to a good start in doubles with a win by No. 1 duo Zoey Van Buerden and Hannah Hjelm.
Gramza said his No. 2 duo was playing great with a 4-4 tie in the first set, but Firebaugh’s No. 3 doubles team officially claimed the victory before that No. 2 match ended.
He said his No. 2 team had a tough time focusing on the rest of their match during Firebaugh’s championship celebration.
“That kind of took the wind out of our girls,” Gramza said. “They were pretty emotional and they just kind of went through the motions for the rest of the match.”
As for the No. 3 doubles match, Gramza said she had to pull up a girl from the junior varsity squad because regular doubles player Hope Stockton was unavailable to play.
“That was a little overwhelming for our jv girl,” Gramza said. “She tried her hardest, but it was a little tough for her.”
Kingsburg ends the season at 18-4 overall and 9-3 in Central Sequoia League play. The Vikings finished in second place behind Central Valley Christian, who placed first in the CSL with an undefeated 12-0 league record.
Despite the disappointing ending, Gramza said it was a great season all around with many players improving from last year.
Gramza said some of this season’s improved players were Hjelm, Ekpreet Virk, and Rylie Cornett. Last season, Hjelm and Virk were the No. 7 and No. 8 players and improved to the No. 4 and No. 5 spots this year.
As for Cornett, she was on the junior varsity squad last year and had a tremendous season as the team’s No. 6 player.
Cornett put together a 20-1 record this season with her only loss coming against CVC’s Lauren Reed in a league match at home on Sept. 11. Cornett lost against Reed 3-6, 6-1, (4-10).
“She had the flu really bad that day,” Gramza said. “I don’t think she would lost had she been healthy, but she played phenomenal at the sixth spot all year for us.”
After losing its No. 1 player from last season and a couple of girls from graduation, Gramza said this year’s Kingsburg’s team exceeded his expectations.
“There was a lot of adversity they had to overcome,” Gramza said. “We lost our No. 1 [at the start of the year] and No. 8 at the end of the season. Then, our No. 3 [Raine Palomino] was injured for most of the second half of the season, but she battled hard.”