On paper it looks like another dominant victory for the Garces girls tennis team, but for those who watched Sierra Kent play Tuesday afternoon, it was much more.
The Rams’ junior lost the first set to Bakersfield Christian freshman Hannah Kratt and trailed 5-0 in the second.
But just one game from losing the match, Kent turned things around after some brief encouragement from her coach, Barb Johnston Hill.
Kent staved off elimination, winning the next seven games, and then defeating Kratt 11-9 in a tiebreaker to clinch the match for No. 2 Garces in an 8-1 victory over the No. 7 Eagles in the quarterfinals of the Central Section Division I playoffs.
“We always tell them that it’s never over until you shake hands,” said Johnston Hill of the 2½-hour match. “I just told her lets just win one game. She won that game and I said, lets win one more.
“Sierra just never gives up. She’s a battler.That’s one for the books, that’s for sure.”
After winning the set and forcing the tiebreaker, Kent again faced match point — twice — trailing 9-7. But she won the next four points, including one on a perfectly-placed ace, to win the match.
“When my coach tells me I have to win this game, I just stepped it up and tried my hardest,” said Kent, who transferred from North and had to sit our until SWYL play. “ After that I said I can’t lose another one. I have to keep fighting for it. She says never give up and he did that.
“A lot was going on (in my head early in the match). There was a lot of cheering. The other team was cheering. It made me upset. So I had to take a few moments and just breathe. I just cleared my head and I started playing better.”
The Rams advance to Thursday’s semifinals where they will play host to No. 3 Clovis-Buchanan.
Garces started the match in impressive fashion with No. 1 singles player Alexsia Drulias defeated Eagles’ freshman Breanna Hiebert, 6-1, 6-0, winning the final 11 games.
“I started hitting my shots from the beginning,” Drulias said. “I told myself that (Breanna) is a great competitor and I knew that if I was going to beat her I had to start (strong) from the beginning and continue the entire match.
“Everything was working for me. I had a lesson this morning and I was happy to see everything come together for me today.”
The Rams’ No. 3 singles player, freshman Kylee Limpias, was also playing at the top of her game. She cruised past Sydney Carrier, 6-1, 6-1.
“I was feeling kind of nervous at the beginning,” said Limpias or her first high school playoff match. “I lost the first game, but then I started to do better. My serving was pretty good and I started to be more consistent.”
Jackie Sala shook of a slow start to defeat Lauren Buetow, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, while Steph Mercado posted a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Kelsey Bloemhof at No. 5 singles.
Katie Faughn posted the lone win for Bakersfield Christian, defeating Garces’ Matea Thomas in No. 6 singles, but Eagles’ coach Tyler Thomas was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Overall, I’m just glad that we came out here and played our game,” Thoms said. “We didn’t conform to their style. We went out there and we swung hard and swung for the fences, so to speak. It obviously didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, but I’m really proud of the girls for committing.
“At the beginning of the season we had to change the way we think about tennis, our approach toward tennis when we are on the court. And I think by the end of the season they were doing that.”