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Rewriting history: Centennial wins first boys tennis section title since 1999

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Centennial's Brett Yackovich, seen here during last weekend's Area Tournament, helped lead the Golden Hawks to a Division II Central Section Championship on Wednesday.

Over the last month, Craig Morley left no doubt as to what he expected from the Centennial boys tennis team during the 2021 postseason.

"Four weeks ago, I started talking to the boys about having the goal of being section champions," said Morley, the Golden Hawks' head coach. "Everything we were doing was to become Valley champions. Almost every practice we would bring something up to keep foremost in their minds that this is our goal."

On Wednesday, that goal came into existence in dominating fashion.

The third-seeded Golden Hawks swept singles play against top-seed Reedley-Immanuel, capturing the program's first section title since 1999 with a 6-0 win in the Division II final.

Centennial dropped just one set the entire match. No. 1 and No. 3 players Brett Yackovich and Derek Klopstein both earned 6-1, 6-2 wins, beating Josh Reimer and Bryce Cornel respectively.

No. 6 player Braeden Burrow earned a perfect 6-0, 6-0 win over Brodey McHugh, with teammates Max Geissel (6-1, 6-4) and Daniel Chong (6-0, 6-2) also winning comfortably at No. 4 and 5 against Nathanael Atmajian and Zack Baptista.

In the best match of the day, CJ Gimena and Immanuel's Jake Goertzen battled at No. 2, with each player earning a 7-5 win before heading into a marathon third set. But in the end, Gimena came out on top, surviving the tie-breaker 13-11 to secure the sweep.

Morley was so pleased with the final result, the closest thing he had to a complaint was that his team was too dominant, as the six singles wins left no need for doubles play.

"I was almost disappointed that we won in straight singles because all my doubles teams would have excelled as well," he said. 

Playing with such depth up and down the roster, Centennial players entered the section believing they had enough man power to take down anyone in the tournament, and were elated to see their full potential be realized.

"It's just awesome to see our whole team coming through when it really mattered," said Yackovich, the 2021 SWYL singles champion. "Everyone's worked so hard for this at all our practices. Even the guys who didn't play in the finals played massive roles in our victory."

It was a victory a Golden Hawk boys tennis team hadn't earned in 22 years, and players were elated to achieve something that hadn't been done at the school in their lifetimes.

"We're kind of re-writing history," Yackovich said. "It's just crazy think we're the first ones to do it in that long."

"I am ecstatic for the boys," Morley added. "They knew that this was their moment. They seized it and they deserved it."