HANFORD — A dynasty is considered by many to need at least three championships. You can add Sierra Pacific to that list.
With Joshua Wilson’s victory in No. 4 singles, the Golden Bears spilled onto the court to mob the freshman. Wilson’s second-set tiebreaker won the fifth singles match of the day and clinched the team’s third consecutive Central Section championship.
“It felt like a normal match, but then after I kind of processed ‘Oh, that was match,’” Wilson said. “The way everybody’s screaming it sounds like it was the sealer, so I got pretty excited. It took me a bit to get excited at the end, but it felt good.”
No. 1 seed Sierra Pacific defeated No. 2 seed Mission Prep 7-2 in the CIF Central Section Division IV championship to solidify their dynasty. Not only did they complete a three-peat, but they did it in singles on Tuesday.
The Golden Bears and Royals (14-3, 12-0 OL) actually met on March 27 with Sierra Pacific winning 5-4 in that match. The result was the same the second time around, but the process was much more different.
“Our team, they were ready,” Sierra Pacific coach Michael Miya said. “You can tell our kids were comfortable, they were playing well. I didn’t see hardly any nervousness going on with our kids and some of that’s because we’ve been here.”
Wilson won his match 6-1, 7-6 (7-0) and never wavered, even after falling behind 6-5 in the second set. He evened the match up and then was relentless in the tiebreaker where he didn’t surrender a single point.
“I don’t know why it was so dominant to be honest,” Wilson said. “I guess I was just playing better tennis than I was in the second set.”
Before all eyes were on Wilson’s match, the Golden Bears had to rally. Sierra Pacific’s Jackie Gong lost the No. 1 singles match 6-1, 6-0 and Mission Prep had the lead. But minutes after his match, Jinqiao Lu and Bradley Chounlamountry came off the court with wins to give the Golden Bears a 2-1 lead in singles.
Lu won the No. 3 singles match 6-2, 6-1 and Chounlamountry won the No. 5 singles match 6-3, 6-1. Lu was tied 2-2 in the first set and won the next four games, including 10 of the final 11 games in the match. Chounlamountry trailed 2-1 in the first set before he also went on a run and dominated the rest of his match.
“I just had to play the same mentality the same game as last time,” Chounlamountry said. “I felt I could take advantage of the mental game as well as just playing consistently. Also, just having confidence in myself with the team spirit.”
Then just like in the semifinals, Marco Diaz took his No. 2 singles match into a third-set tiebreaker. He lost the first set 6-2 before rebounding and winning 6-0.
In the super tiebreaker, the two players were tied at four when Diaz seized control of the match and won the next six points for the 2-6, 6-0 (10-4) victory.
“I let the nerves get away and I put cold water in my hat and just stayed cool and just played aggressive and took over that [tiebreaker],” Diaz said. “That was very scary, but I hung in there and played my game and I got it.”
Kristian Losenara at No. 6 then came off the court with a 6-2, 6-3 win and gave the Golden Bears a 4-1 lead before Wilson was able to deliver in the clutch.
With the match decided, the two teams agreed to play the doubles matches to eight points. The No. 1 doubles team of Joshua Wilson and Kristian Losenara lost 8-2, but the next two teams were victorious. No. 2 Nick Brockie and Jacob Bueno won 8-4 and No. 3 Alberto Camarena and Alexander Rogado won 8-1.
“We have an incredible group of young men that understands the game of tennis and teamwork,” Miya said. “It’s very enjoyable coaching this group that’s willing to work hard for a common goal. Our seniors who put in four years really deserve this victory.”
The three-peat is a remarkable run for the Golden Bears. Sierra Pacific was the No. 2 seed when they won the D-V title, 6-3, over No. 1 seed Corcoran in 2017. Last season, they were bumped up to Division IV, but still earned the No. 1 seed and then won 5-4 over No. 2 seed Roosevelt in the finale.
The list of accomplishments for the Golden Bears is long, but here are a few of the major ones from the last four seasons.
The Golden Bears have made four championship appearances in a row. They lost to Corcoran, 5-4, in the 2016 championship. Sierra Pacific has won four East Sequoia League titles in a row, including back-to-back undefeated league championships. The team has won 33 ESL matches in a row and was a perfect 90-0 in games against league opponents this season.
“It’s something that’s hard to explain,” Miya said about the feeling of winning the championship. “It’s once in a lifetime for some of these kids. I told the kids early in our pre-match pep talk is that, ‘You look at all the teams that we’ve played, most of them never make it to a Valley finals, much less make it to even a playoff match.’ We’re very fortunate to be where we are.”
Sierra Pacific finishes the season 21-2 overall and 10-0 in the ESL. The team will graduate six seniors, including Chounlamountry, Diaz and Gong, but Miya expects his team’s depth to fill those voids. He also believes the team will move to Division III after the two-year run they’ve had in Division IV.
“[Division III] watch out,” Miya said. “Here come the Bears.”