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LEMOORE — With questions abound before the season, an 8-1 victory on Senior Day put all of them to rest as the Lemoore girls tennis team finished second in the West Yosemite League for the third year in a row.

“They had a better season than anticipated,” Lemoore coach Carla Bow said. “Not saying that they didn’t have the potential, but still having young players … they really pulled together. They stepped up to the plate like I asked them to.”

Sporting only two seniors on the varsity roster, Bow wasn’t sure what the team was capable of, but after 19 matches, the team finished 13-6 overall and 7-3 in league — only one less win than last season.

Lemoore took on Hanford (0-12, 0-10) in their final home match on Tuesday and just like in their first meeting, absolutely dominated the courts. They went 5-1 in singles and swept the doubles matches.

“They got on and off the court really quickly, executed their shots,” Bow said. “I was really pleased with how they played.”

Madison Kuntz, a senior, led the way with a 6-1, 6-2 No. 1 singles victory. Her net play allowed her to put away easy points and made it difficult for clean returns.

Kuntz finishes 14-6 on the season at the No. 1 singles position and 29-10 over the last two seasons combined. She also won the West Yosemite League doubles championship last year with former doubles partner Lizeth Garcia.

“Watching her develop and grow from a freshman until now, and the last two years lead the team at the No. 1 position, it’s bittersweet,” Bow said. “You don’t replace someone like that.”

No. 2 Aliana Cabuhat won 6-0, 6-1, No. 3 Jenny Paez won 6-1, 6-2 and No. 6 Sophia Gregorio won 6-1, 6-0. No. 5 Christina Nguyen had the most dominating performance on the day with a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

The Bullpups pulled out their only victory of the day thanks to No. 3 Emily Reinhart. The senior closed out her three-year tennis career by winning 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) in a closely contested match, which took a tiebreaker to decide the outcome.

“There was a lot of lobs and it was very tiring. At some points I wanted to give up … but I persevered through it and was able to win,” Reinhart said. “McKennah [Miller] told me right before I was about to go into tiebreaker to, ‘Win this match. It’s your last match. Go for it.’”

The words resonated with her as she ran away in the tiebreaker and sealed the win.

Lemoore rebounded quickly and won all three doubles matches in convincing fashion. The No. 1 team of Kuntz and Paez won 8-2, while the No. 2 team of Nguyen and Hannah Raber and No. 3 team of Sophia Gregorio and Marissa Salazar both won 8-0.

Before the match the Tigers honored their five seniors for Senior Day. They were Kuntz, Salazar, Anne Orton, Ashley Phelps and Serenity Gonzales. The latter three were on the junior varsity team.

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The Tigers will advance to the playoffs, but have to wait until next Monday to see where they’ll be positioned in the Division III bracket and if they game a home match or even a bye.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully winning with my team and taking that plaque,” Kuntz said.

The Bullpups struggled throughout the season and finish winless for the second time in three seasons. They’ve won three matches over the last five seasons.

Both teams will be taking players to the WYL championships today at Redwood High School beginning at 10 a.m.

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Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Sentinel

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