Porterville finishes season as runner-up Valley champions
A win was the only thing that could've made Porterville High School's impressive season better.
Nearly 10 years after playing in their third-straight Valley championship, the Panthers (19-6, 8-2 EYL) girls tennis team was back in the CIF Central Section Division III championship match playing for a coveted Valley title Tuesday at the College of the Sequoias.
Underdogs against top-seed Central Valley Christian, sixth-seed Porterville played from behind much of the match before the Cavaliers won the title in singles by taking a 5-1 lead. CVC then swept the doubles match for their fourth-straight Valley title and first in Div. III.
“I thought we did pretty well for the kind of season that we had,” PHS head coach Kurt Nielsen said. “Got a couple good wins in the playoffs and couple good matches. And you've got to be pleased getting to the finals. Especially (after) not winning league. ... I'm proud of them.”
Porterville's lone win of the day came in the No. 3 singles from Jewelia Maniss, who came from behind in her first set then won her match 7-5, 6-1.
“I just had to see what her strengths and weaknesses were so I could see how to play her,” Maniss said. “So once I figured that out, it became a lot easier.”
Despite the final scores, the Panthers were close in several matches including the third, fourth and fifth singles.
No. 6 Lizbeth Martinez played a long first set after losing a 3-game lead and dropping her match 7-5, 6-2. No. 4 Erica Palad lost her first set 6-1, had a 4-3 lead to start her second but lost the set 7-5. No. 1 Chloe Weaver lost 6-2, 6-4 and No. 2 Sierra Mitchel also lost 6-1, 6-3; but both were leading at one point in their second match.
The closest match of the night was in the No. 5 singles were Zeila Rivera dropped the first set 6-3 after leading early but came back to win the second 7-5 and force a tiebreaker set. However Rivera lost it 10-6.
“I knew (CVC was) a tough team that played well but you never can tell what players are thinking,” Nielsen said. “If they're happy to get there or not, try to play it down or put more pressure on them. Obviously you want to win. But on paper they're better, No. 1 seed. You watch them hit the ball they look good. They're good players. So I guess nobody can really be surprised. Would've been nice to be a closer match.”
Even without the win, Nielsen said it was a good way for him to finish his career with the girls team. After 21 years of coaching, he is retiring in the spring with 12 East Yosemite League titles, four Valley championship appearances and one Valley title.
“This is really a dream ending,” Nielsen said. “The only thing better of course is to win. But it was going to be a tough matchup.”
With this final match, Nielsen says goodbye to a senior-heavy team that has continued to make him proud.
“I'm proud of them,” he said. “Great career, great three years. Everybody except for Liz was with us for three years. Very, very proud of them and I thought we represented Porterville well, and EYL well. They're all great ladies, great students, great citizens. So very happy.”
CVC 8, Porterville 1
No. 1 Chloe Weaver 6-2, 6-4 L
No. 2 Sierra Mitchel 6-1, 6-3 L
No. 3 Jewelia Maniss 7-5, 6-1 W
No. 4 Erica Palad 6-1, 7-5 L
No. 5 Zeila Rivera 6-3, 5-7, 10-6 L
No. 6 Lizbeth Martinez 7-5, 6-2 L
No. 1 Weaver and Maniss 8-5 L
No. 2 Mitchel and Rivera 8-3 L
No. 3 Dez Gomez and Jazlynne Medrano 8-4 L