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HANFORD — From nearly top to bottom, Lemoore was the better team on the court on Tuesday. They thoroughly dominated — and finished the match — in singles and won 6-3 over Kingsburg at home in their final preseason match.

“We’re working on some things in practice that they’re slowly putting into their singles matches and when I see that that makes me happy because they’re expanding their game,” Lemoore coach Eric Bow said. “We’re working on that especially for the playoffs when we go up against even teams.”

The Tigers led from the start by winning the first set in five of the six singles matches. Their aggressive play and athletic movement on the court was too much for the Vikings to handle.

At the No. 2 singles position, senior Christina Nguyen won 6-2, 6-1 with her consistent forehand and forcing her opponent to make clean returns on the run.

“It was basically just my consistency … and getting the ball over and just making her run more that was the key to winning my match,” Nguyen said.

No. 3 Jenny Paez got off to a shaky start, but only became stronger as the match went along. Eventually, she ran away with her match and won 6-2, 6-0. She said the key to her match was confidence.

“At first when I started out I was like, ‘Whoa, she’s getting them pretty good,’ but then I was like, ‘I can do that too,’” Paez said. “It was just confidence and building up to it.”

No. 4 Sophia Gregorio continued the trend by beating her opponent 6-0, 6-4 and No. 5 Paige Clarke won 6-0, 6-2. No. 6 Hannah Raber was victorious with a 6-1, 6-3 decision. No. 1 Aliana Cabuhat lost her match 6-2, 6-1.

Nguyen and Paez teamed up for No. 1 doubles where they lost 8-5. The duo tried to mount a comeback, but it was too little, too late.

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“Our heads were not in the game we weren’t really getting to the balls or we kept hitting them out,” Paez said. “Near the end we were playing well … but it was too late.”

The No. 2 doubles team of Gregorio and Clarke also came up short 9-7, but No. 3 doubles Taylor Areias and Louelle Braga won their match 8-4.

The Tigers finished the 2018 season 14-7 overall and 7-4 in the West Yosemite League. It was the third consecutive year they finished second in league behind powerhouse Redwood. The team is looking to perform well in league once again by returning an experienced squad where five of the top six players are seniors and all played at some point last season and in the playoffs.

“We practice every day and we just try to put in enough effort,” Nguyen said. “We’re really trying for Valley this year, we’re trying our best, so practice is kind of all over the place. We’re trying to get organized and we’ve been working our butts off just to be really good this year.”

Lemoore has been knocked out of the playoffs in the CIF Central Section Division III quarterfinals the last two seasons, but they’re hoping to take that next step in their growth as a team this year.

“We certainly hope to improve on our Valley quarterfinals appearances the last two years,” Bow said. “We should get further. Really a legitimate shot at the semifinals and then a chance at the finals. That’s what I expect of them that’s what they expect of themselves.”

The Tigers finish the preseason 5-3 overall and will face Redwood at home on Thursday at 4 p.m. to start play in the West Yosemite League. Last season, Lemoore was swept by Redwood — both contests were 9-0.

“I think this team is capable of winning Valley,” Paez said. “We just have to apply what we do in practice to our matches and be confident about it so that we don’t mess up.”

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

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