Teams have come and gone the past 20 years as the Southwest Yosemite League has evolved into what is now commonly known as “The Power League.”
But through it all, there has been at least one constant — the dominance of the Stockdale girls tennis program.
The Mustangs won 16 straight SWYL titles between 2000-2015 and enter Thursday afternoon’s match at Garces as winners of 18 of the last 19 league championships.
The lone blemish? In 2016, when the Rams snapped Stockdale’s string of success. The teams shared top honors last year.
“Well the winner of that match is going to be at least a co-champion, probably,” said Mustangs coach Dave Hillestad, who guided his team to the Division I title at the Lewis Cup this weekend. “If we’re going to have any chance at all, we’ve gotta win at least three singles matches. And I don’t know if we’re going to do that. I mean they have a very tough team. We have a really good team, too, but it’s imperative that we win three singles matches.”
Both teams are 4-0 in SWYL entering the 3:30 p.m. match, and both have battle-tested players with a long list of section, league and BVarsity All-Area honors.
“I think both teams are going to be ready to go,” said Garces coach Barb Johnston Hill, who led the Rams to several Southeast Yosemite and South Sequoia League titles before the school joined the SWYL in 2014. “They obviously played well in the Lewis Cup. They had a good weekend so I know they’re confident, and I feel like our kids are confident and ready to go; ready for the showdown. I feel like it’s been talked about a lot and now it’s time to get on the court and let our racquets do the talking.”
The Rams are led by senior Alexsia Drulias, who was honored as the BVarsity All-Area player of the year the last two seasons. She will square off with the Mustangs’ No. 1 player, junior Greta Krueger. Krueger won a section title in doubles play two years ago and advanced to the Division I tournament as a singles player last year en route to being named All-Area first team. She has never defeated Drulias head-to-head, but did force a third-set tiebreaker last year.
At No. 2 singles, the Rams will send out junior Jackie Sala, who teamed with Drulias to win the section doubles title last year. Stockdale counters with junior Gabi Guijarro, a second-team All-Area selection last season.
After that, things could get real interesting, and the Mustangs’ experience could be a factor. Stockdale lost two players from last year’s squad, one to graduation and another to transfer. Garces’ lineup includes two freshmen and a transfer among its top 7.
“We know this is a big match,” said Hillestad, whose all-junior lineup also includes Kierstin Anderson, Jasmine Flores, Vandita Gorla and Lily Wang. “Most of my girls are juniors so they’ve already been through this a couple of years in a row. They already know it’s a huge rivalry. They also know it’s going to be for the league championship. I’ll remind them of that, but we’ve had this match circled on the calendar for quite a while, knowing that it’s going to be a very important one.”
Freshman Kylee Limpias and junior Sierra Kent, a transfer from North, will be experiencing the intensity of this rivalry for the first time. They are joined by Matea Thomas and Stephanie Mercado to round out the Rams’ singles lineup.
“We have three of our top seven that have not been through it yet, but I think the other girls have been preparing them for the intensity that we’re going to need to have to beat Stockdale and we’re going to come and be ready to play,” Johnston Hill said. “We’ll just throw the balls out there and let the kids play and see who is the better team.”