Preps

Wednesday, May 14 2014 11:40 PM

Taft captures first section boys tennis title

  1. 1 of 5

    By Rod Thornburg / The Californian

    Taft's Rafa Arreguin concentrates his efforts and puts it back over the net with a win over his opponents from Reedley's Immanuel High School, with 2/6- 2/6.

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  2. 2 of 5

    By Rod Thornburg / The Californian

    Jesus Gutierrez of Taft wins his sets over his Immanuel High School's Divsion 4 opponent 6/1-6/2.

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  3. 3 of 5

    By Rod Thornburg / The Californian

    Taft's Cristo Miranda congratulates his double's partner Rafa Arreguin after scoring against their Immanuel High School opponents.

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  4. 4 of 5

    By Rod Thornburg / The Californian

    Taft's Rafa Arreguin puts it back over the net with a win over his opponents from Reedley's Immanuel High School, with 2/6- 2/6.

    click to expand click to collapse
  5. 5 of 5

    By Rod Thornburg / The Californian

    Taft's Cristo Miranda and doubles partner Rafa Arreguin (not pictured) put it back over the net to their opponents from Reedley's Immanuel High School.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

TAFT -- Taft High has team and individual champions across the board in sports such as football, track, basketball, volleyball and swimming.

Boys tennis now gets to place its team award in the Wildcats' trophy case.

Taft affirmed its top seed in Division IV with a 7-2 win over second-seeded Reedley-Immanuel for the program's first Central Section boys tennis title in the school's history.

"Two years ago we had a big group of sophomores and I said when they were seniors they could be special," said Taft coach Jim Carnal, who's in his 15th season as the Wildcats' coach. "The dream came true."

Taft finishes 23-4, the best single-season record in the program's history.

Moments after Taft wrapped up the victory, Carnal was doused with ice water.

"I've waited 15 years for that," he said.

The Wildcats nearly clinched it in singles by winning 4-of-6 matches. Taft's No. 3 Cameron Bunch was beaten in a tie-breaker after the other five singles matches had ended. That meant Taft needed at least one doubles victory to sew up the title.

When Immanuel's James Sorenson sent a return into the net on a serve from Taft's Paster Magana, Magana and partner Chuy Gutierrez wrapped up a 6-2, 6-2 doubles win to clinch it.

Bunch, on the next court, raced over and gave Magana and Gutierrez a hug. Moments later Taft's entire team was celebrating.

Bunch and partner Brayan Herrera finished off a 6-2, 6-2 win moments later and the No. 1 team of Rafa Arreguin and Cristo Miranda posted a 7-5, 6-3 win minutes later.

"Oh, man, it was exhilarating," said Gutierrez, who also coasted to a 6-1, 6-2 win in No. 2 singles. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Bunch had several unforced errors that proved costly in singles, but he tightened up his game in doubles.

"There was no way I was going to let my team down again," he said.

As the three doubles matches neared their conclusion, and with Taft comfortably leading in each, Bunch said the Wildcats' confidence grew.

"Our opponents were totally slammed and we rode the momentum to the win," Bunch said.

Taft has 12 seniors among its 14 players. Immanuel has only two seniors.

"We need to do it this year," Carnal said during the match.

Immanuel coach Kevin Lott has Kern County ties.

He graduated from West High in 2008 and he was the Vikings' No. 1 player his senior year. Lott also played in 2009 at Bakersfield College.

"I was hopeful. I thought we had a chance," Lott said of the Eagles' chances.

"But top to bottom, they were the better team today."

It was Carnal's second section title. He coached Taft's girls to the 2012 championship.

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