The Taft girls tennis team is on a roll.
The Wildcats finished off their second straight South Sequoia League title last week and have now won 24 straight league matches. Taft outscored SSL opponents 106-2 this season, dropping just one match in singles and doubles.
Taft will look to continue that momentum when they open play in the two-day SSL individual championships at Arvin on Wednesday. Opening-round matches are scheduled to start at 2 p.m., with the finals set to begin at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
“We’re really deep,” said second-year Taft coach Bill Friend, who was an assistant the previous 24 seasons. “In the past we’ve had No. 1s and 2s that would have won 6-0 every time they played against one of our lower players, and now one through nine are all competitive. So that makes a big difference. The practices are better and the No. 9 has played with the No. 1 in doubles, so they’ve gained really good experience.”
The Wildcats (21-3, 12-0) returned seven players from last year’s squad. The team’s top two players, Diana Huizar and Cielo Woggn both graduated, but Taft hasn’t missed a beat.
Seniors Valerie Munoz and Arelie Paz, who were both honorable mention BVarsity All-Area players last year, are now the Wildcats No.1 and No. 2. Both players swept through the SSL competition this year and Friend expects them to both qualify for next week’s South Area Division-IV tournament at Garces.
Jessica De La Cruz is playing at No. 3 for Taft, with the Perez sisters — junior Jeidi and senior Cindy — playing No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
The Wildcats also benefited from the return of seniors Ivonne Gutierrez and Gabby Aguilar. The pair quit the team last year following the second league match, but have returned to solidify Taft’s lineup. Gutierrez is playing at No. 6, while Aguilar has been a key doubles player this season.
With Gutierrez’s absence last season, Friend called up Kaleigh Pence to the varsity squad, where she received valuable experience as a freshman. Pence and fellow sophomore Anna Solorzano are now key components on Taft’s doubles team.