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LEMOORE — In a battle between two West Yosemite League rivals, the Tigers showed they’re still the clear-cut favorite. Despite missing their No. 1 player, Lemoore took down Hanford in a 9-0 sweep at home on Thursday.

“In a match like this it gives them more confidence because they are playing higher and they realize they can go up against opponents that are at a higher level on the ladder and that does help them when they get into more difficult matches against some of the stronger WYL teams,” Bow said. “

Lemoore’s Aliana Cabuhat, who typically occupies the No. 1 spot, was out with a shoulder injury, but Jenny Paez — and the rest of the team — didn’t miss a beat moving up the ladder. Paez seamlessly stepped into the top spot and came away with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Hanford No. 1 Sadie Avila.

“I was pretty nervous at first, but I just thought, ‘I have to play my best’ and I did and I pulled through,” Paez said. “I just needed to be patient the most in this game.”

Paez’s confidence came through in the second set with a solid return game, which helped her finish quickly.

“It was honestly patience because at first I was in the lead 5-1, but then I started to lose my patience and that’s when I started making a lot of mistakes,” Paez said. “My coach, on the switchover, he talked to me he was like, 'You just need to be patient’ so I took that in mind and I ended up winning every single game after that.”

Lemoore’s Hannah Raber played the cleanest match of the afternoon. Raber, at the No. 5 position, won 6-0, 6-0 with a steady forehand, smooth backhand and an easy ability to cover the court.

“It was keeping a good mentality and just keep focused on your goal and winning,” Raber said.

Raber also sat back and rallied against Hanford’s Jennifer Esparza with an error-free game. It allowed her to extend points and let Esparza make mistakes before she did.

“Well I used to be really nervous about going up and playing, but now I don’t really worry about it as much because I don’t feel like I have that much to worry about,” Raber said. “I just need to try my best and whatever happens, happens.”

The junior was also recently voted as the representative for the Tigers’ tennis team. Raber will be included on a large poster with other athletes from Lemoore.

The rest of the team didn’t have any trouble either. Lemoore No. 2 Christina Nguyen defeated Hanford’s McKennah Miller 6-1, 6-1 and No. 3 Sophia Gregorio dispatched Hanford’s Jenna Scott 6-2, 6-3.

Lemoore’s No. 4 Paige Clarke won 6-1, 6-0 and Louelle Braga won 6-2, 6-1 to allow the Tigers to wrap up the match in singles. Lemoore then went on to win all three doubles matches (8-5, 8-4, 8-0).

The Tigers are now in fourth place in the WYL behind first-place Redwood, Mt. Whitney and El Diamante.

“The two matches we’re really looking at are the El Diamante and the Mt. Whitney because we lost both of those, especially in the Mt. Whitney one I don’t think we played particularly well,” Bow said. “We’ll look to see improvement, especially in those matches.”

Even though Hanford (2-6, 1-4 WYL) dropped to fifth in league, the team remains positive about their improvement. Hanford coach Alex Ibarra said the team is finally picking up points and implementing what they learned in practice to on the court in matches.

“I’ve seen that they’ve hit the ball a lot cleaner than they have before,” Ibarra said. “They’re going for shots that they usually didn’t hit before and they’re becoming a little more confident in their shotmaking.”

The Bullpups’ breakthrough actually came through on Tuesday when they defeated Golden West 6-3 for its first WYL win since Sept. 27, 2017.

“That’s what you want to see as a coach, them moving up and not staying where they’re at,” Ibarra said. “They want to grow as a player and want to play more and want to come back and play those same people they lost against and play them tougher.”

Hanford has the next week off and will face El Diamante (3-3, 2-1 WYL) on the road on Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. to begin the second round of league play. The Bullpups lost 6-3 to the Miners earlier this season.

Lemoore (8-6, 2-3 WYL) will also start the second round on the road against Redwood (12-6, 4-0 WYL) on Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. The Rangers defeated the Tigers 7-2 in the first round.

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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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