BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
The lessons learned from four early season losses are continuing to pay off for the Stockdale High boys tennis team.
The Mustangs, which began the season 1-4, extended their winning streak to 11 straight matches by downing Southwest Yosemite League rival Frontier, 9-0, on Friday.
The visiting Mustangs dispatched the Titans with ease, winning each match in straight sets. The victory cements Stockdale's place atop the SWYL standings.
"I thought our kids played well," Stockdale coach Dave Hillestad said. "Like I told them before our match, every match you play we're trying to improve and get better. And so I was pretty happy we had the pretty dominant performance today."
John Matthew Flores, Matt Nisson, Andre Paradise and Patrick Nassar all were singles and doubles winners for Stockdale, which has been on roll since losing three times during the California Tennis Classic tournament, hosted by Clovis-Buchanan in early March.
"The competition we faced early on was very tough," Hillestad said. "But we did learn from it. Obviously when you play better people, in my opinion, you get better. And so taking the losses to begin the season kind of, I think, helped us to improve because we took a look at what at we could do better and what we could improve on. ... Through those losses we took some things at practice and worked on some things that would help take us to another level."
Two weeks after the California Tennis Classic, the Mustangs (12-4, 4-0 SWYL) beat Garces, Liberty, Clovis, Bakersfield Christian and Buchanan for the prestigious Lynch Cup title. Stockdale won 25 of 30 sets during the two-day event.
"It was a very good weekend for us," Hillestad said.
The deep and talented Mustangs were simply too much to handle for a solid but over-matched Titans squad Friday.
Frontier 12-5, 2-2 SWYL), last year's Central Section Division II champions, have been moved up this season to Division I.
"It's a good experience to see where we want to go," Frontier coach Elton Evans said. "We want to build up a program and have it look something like Stockdale's, or mirror that. It kind of gives us a little perspective to what is it going to compete at the D-I level."
The Titans were without their No. 2 player, Alex Dobrenan, who suffered an injury to his wrist playing basketball three weeks ago.
Taking his place as the second player on the Frontier ladder was Wonje Lee, who lost 6-0, 6-1 to Nisson in singles.
Later, Nisson teamed with Flores for a 6-0, 6-2 doubles win over the tandem of Lee and Frontier No. 1 Jake Kounter.
"We're just playing great right now,"Nisson said. "This has been a fun season so far. The improvement has just been great so far."
Like Hilestad, Nisson believes the Mustangs' tough early-season schedule has been the key to their recent string of success.
"We were playing some really tough teams at first and that's just made us better as players," Nisson said. "And (now) we're just peaking at a good point.
Flores thinks the Stockdale turnaround can be attributed to altering on-court tactics.
“We changed our strategy to try and keep the ball in more,” he said. “ … Be more patient with the shots in the rallies.”
Regardless of the “why,” Hillestad is pleased with his team’s improvement since the beginning of the year.
“For the most part we’ve been executing well,” Hillestad said. “We’ve been getting better with every match. I think we’re getting more consistent. Our goal is to first win the league and then to make it to the valley finals if possible.”