CORCORAN - In the 100 years Corcoran High School has been open, no Panthers girls tennis team had won a Central Section championship.
That changed Wednesday.
Top-seeded Corcoran hosted No. 2 Coalinga in the Central Section Division V championship and the Panthers capped a dream season with a 6-3 victory.
Corcoran swept the first five singles matches, with Nancy Gusman providing the match-clinching point. The doubles were a moot point as the Panthers were able to start celebrating a championship early.
“It feels like everything we did was worth it,” said Gusman. “Every practice, every drill.”
And that was what brought Corcoran to the top for the first time, said Panthers head coach Robert Lerma.
“This was won months ago when the girls showed up in the summer,” Lerma said. “They were learning the basics in 105 degree weather. They let their skills show today.”
Corcoran finished the season a perfect 22-0, but the title match wasn’t a walkover. The Horned Toads came in with only one loss on their record, which was to the Panthers in a 5-4 nail-biter earlier in the season.
Things went Corcoran’s way a little quicker.
“It was like night and day,” said Lerma of this match combined to the last time the teams met. “It was tooth and nail for the first couple matches. The girls that lost last time reversed it and won this time.”
One of those close matches included Gusman, who defeated Kathryn Morales after falling in the first set. But Gusman was able to rally, winning the second set before winning in the super-set tie-breaker 2-6, 6-4, (10-7).
“I was struggling early,” Gusman said. “But coach told me to play our tennis. And that really helped.”
Also coming from behind at No. 1 singles was Teji Dulai. Dulai needed a second set tie-breaker just to force the super-set tiebreaker, edging Alyssa Artena 1-6, 7-6 (7-1), (10-7).
“We pulled some major comebacks,” Lerma said. “It was a testament to their fortitude. Coalinga is a really good team. If we had to play them again, I don’t know if we would have won again.”
Lesly Alvarez beat Aneet Hondal 6-1, 6-2; Linda Torres knocked off Christine Burke 6-2, 6-3 and Jasmine Puga defeated Yolanda Lambert 6-1, 6-2.
With the championship already determined, Coalinga asked to finish out the matches but changed the remaining two doubles that hadn’t started to pro-sets.
Dulai/Puga fell to Artena/Morales 8-6 and Alvarez/Gusman fell to Hondal/Lambert 8-4. Angelica Romero and Yenifer Cerda beat Liz Piepa/Carissa Minyor 6-1, 6-2 and Sabrina Oregel fell in the final singles match to Emma Slankard 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, (10-7).
Last year, the Panthers fell short, losing to McLane in the Division V title match.
Winning this season, made it all the more special.
“It was like a shot to the chest,” said Gusman of last season’s loss. “To make it all the way to Valley and lose is one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. To win the first title, it means everything to us.”