They may not be able to hoist the Lewis Cup this year, but the Mustangs did have it within their sights Saturday.
For the first time since 2008, the Stockdale girls tennis team finished as the runner-up in the Division I bracket of its annual tournament, losing to perennial Central Section powerhouse Clovis-Buchanan in the five-match, two day tournament.
The Bears, who haven't played in the tournament in six years and had never before won the Lewis Cup, finished 5-0.
After Stockdale and Buchanan went 3-0 on Friday, they met up for what turned out to be a chilly, fog-surrounded championship match at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Buchanan posted a 5-1 win, then went on to beat Garces 5-1 to improve to a 24-0 on the season.
"The girls played well," Buchanan coach Jonathan Slater said. "We had some tough matches, but they stepped up and played well. We are pretty happy,
"We have beaten all the top teams now. We feel like we are in a good spot and the team is playing pretty well. It is just a matter of keeping it up for the next few weeks."
Stockdale coach Dave Hillestad knew the match against Buchanan would be tough coming in, especially after the Bears topped the Mustangs 6-3 in the season opener earlier this year. So he opted to shake up the lineup a bit by placing his No. 1 singles player, Prutha Mehta, on the No. 1 doubles team to create some mismatches.
It nearly worked as Mehta and Claire Heffernan posted a 7-2, 6-4 win for the Mustangs and two other matches had to be settled by tiebreakers.
Unfortunately for Stockdale, both went to Buchanan.
In a marathon No. 1 singles showdown that lasted 21/2 hours, Buchanan's Megan Lee outlasted Arianna Tilbury 7-6, 5-7 (10-4). In the No. 2 doubles contest, the Bears' Mary Kay Shellworth and Sienna Swain edged the Mustangs Anita Lay and Carmen Chai 6-7, 6-0 (10-8).
"That was a really good match," Hillestad said. "There is a reason why they are the top team in the (Central Section) because they are a good, solid team.
"I am really proud of our girls. At least we had some close ones and if we won those two tiebreakers, it's a 3-all tie."
On Friday, Stockdale defeated Clovis West (4-2) and Garces (5-1) for the first time since 2008. The Mustangs also beat Clovis 5-1 on Friday before wrapping up second place with a 5-1 victory over Liberty on Saturday afternoon that helped them improve to 17-4 on the season.
"This is a big improvement for us over the last three years ..." Hillestad said. "We are coming along. With two freshmen at the No. 2 and No. 3 singles spots, we have got some building blocks in place and anything is possible when Valley playoffs come along."
Garces, the 2011 Division I Lewis Cup champion, went 3-2 in the tournament and placed third. The Rams beat Clovis 3-3 (45-42 in games), Liberty 4-2 and Clovis West 4-2 and lost to Stockdale 5-1 and Buchanan 5-1. Liberty went 0-5.