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Consistent Garces beats Clovis-Buchanan 6-3 to return to Division I tennis finals

The Lady Rams are headed back to the Central Section Division I tennis finals for the third straight year.

Jocelyn Sala and Kylee Limpias both beat their singles opponents 6-0, 6-0 at Nos. 2 and 3, then matched that score at No. 1 doubles to seal Garces' semifinal victory over Clovis-Buchanan Thursday afternoon.

"They've been playing together since they were young, and they do well together," Garces coach Marc Gomez said. "They have great chemistry, and they kind of complement each other. Jocelyn's got great ground strokes, Kylee's got awesome volleys at the net."

Garces also got wins from Kelsey Abraham at No. 1 singles, bouncing back from her loss against Clovis West, and Maia Cinquemani at No. 6 singles, as well as Abraham and Taylor Crider at No. 2 doubles. In this way, they beat the Bears 6-3.

The Rams had beaten the Bears in Clovis 5-4 on Aug. 26, but Thursday's match never looked to be that close, mostly because Sala and Limpias gave them a 2-0 lead right away. Buchanan struck back with a 6-3, 6-3 win from Kylee Barnes over Gigi Antongiovanni at No. 5, but Garces extended its lead when Cinquemani pulled away in the second set to defeat Tatum Custer.

Then Abraham, the sophomore playing in the Rams' top spot, got tested early by Laura Hioe, but asserted her presence to claim another two-set win, 6-4, 6-1.

"Her opponent came out pretty strong, pretty consistent," Gomez said. "Kelsey had a few unforced errors in the beginning, and then she settled down, and started going a little deeper to the opponent's backhand, a little more drive, give her less reaction time on her backhand."

If Crider could manage to beat Carlee Gendron, the doubles phase of the evening would be rendered moot. But in a game that featured some incredibly long rallies, Gendron soundly defeated Crider in the first set, then held off a second-set comeback to win 7-5 and hold the overall score at 4-2.

Buchanan's hopes of a comeback were short-lived, however, when Limpias and Sala, who will be the top seed in Friday's individual doubles bracket, took down Hioe and Alina Sheikh, the fifth-ranked pair. Abraham and Crider partnered up to claim a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 2, while Maddie Tobias and Gemma Eddy lost at No. 3 in the afternoon's only tiebreaker match. The final tally was 6-3 Garces.

The second-seeded Rams now await news of their finals opponent for Tuesday, which could be No. 1 Clovis North or No. 4 San Luis Obispo.

"I know we lost a tough one last year, 5-4 to Clovis North," Gomez said. "We just got to stay positive, and just give it our all."

In the meantime, the individual tournament, featuring Abraham and Crider in singles and Limpias and Sala in doubles, starts Friday at Garces.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.

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