Jim Carnal knew he was facing an uphill battle when he took over as the Taft High girls tennis coach in 2008.
The Wildcats were coming off back-to-back seasons in which they went 2-8 in South Sequoia League play and were in need of a program makeover.
Oh, how much things have changed since.
This past season under Carnal's guidance Taft won its first section championship in tennis (girls or boys). Along the way the Wildcats also swept perennial power Bakersfield Christian en route to claiming the first girls tennis league title in school history.
For accomplishing all those things Carnal is The Californian's All-Area Girls Tennis Coach of the Year.
"It really couldn't have been any better," Carnal said of the Wildcats' season.
"All year I kept saying it was a dream. I would tell the girls as we went a long that they needed to appreciate and savor it because these things don't come around all the time."
Carnal worked his magic with a roster filled with girls who had never taken lessons or even picked up a racquet prior to deciding to play for the Wildcats. Almost all of Taft's signature wins were nail-biters, including its 5-4 victory over Liberty Ranchos Madera for the Division IV championship.
The Wildcats (23-4, 14-0 SSL) were down 4-2 before storming back to beat the Hawks by sweeping the three doubles matches.
-- STEVE LYNCH