The women’s tennis team made their first CIF appearance in two seasons on Nov. 21 after amazing league play, but unfortunately fell short in the semifinals of the Championship to top-seeded Menlo Knights.
After the graduation of three seniors, the team quickly searched for new leaders to guide and direct the team towards their goal: a state championship. Under the new leadership of Senior Captains Effie Jia and Pooja Rajani, the team was ready to make their mark on Dougherty Valley history.
The Wildcats started their season with an easy 9-0 win over the Acalanes Dons. The team carried that momentum by finishing league play with a perfect 12-0 record. The perfect record gained the Wildcats a valuable second seed going into NCS playoffs, giving them an easier draw. Using this to their advantage, the Wildcats quickly dispatched their opponents in the first and second round matches, leading them to the semi-finals of NCS.
After a tough loss to Miramonte last year, the team was ready to launch themselves into the finals. Standing in their way was a tough Redwood team. Expecting a tough match, the team was ready to battle. They used their loss from last year as motivation to win the semi-finals 5-2, guaranteeing the team a spot in the year-end state championships, which they did not reach last season.
With a weight lifted off of their shoulders, the Wildcats were ready to face off against the best team in the conference in the finals: the Monte Vista Mustangs. The Mustangs came out firing, winning the first three matches and leading the overall score 3-0. However, the Dougherty Valley Wildcats did not stop fighting. The girls showed their Wildcat spirit and fought for every point, taking three of four singles matches into the third set. Although the Wildcats put up a great fight, they were unable to capitalize on missed opportunities, losing the match 2-5. Even though the loss was painful, the team quickly regained their confidence to prepare for the CIF State Championships.
Jia expressed her thoughts after their 15-1 run during the regular season, saying, “I think there’s some pressure I put on myself to do well at CIF this year, but after our NCS matches this year, I think the team is realizing that each individual player has to focus on doing their own best instead of relying on or expecting others to win. Our CIF matches will be pretty difficult, so it’s really going to be about supporting each other while fighting to win every possible match we can,” she said.
With plenty of practice and confidence, the Wildcats arrived in Sacramento on Nov. 22 ready to take on the biggest tournament of the season. With an almost perfect record, the Wildcats secured themselves an impressive fourth seed, receiving a bye in the first round.
In the second round, the Wildcats faced off against Rocklin High School. The ladies got off to a great start, winning all three of the doubles matches in straight sets. But Rocklin players regained their footing in singles play and took their tennis to the next level. Even though Dougherty Valley won five matches to two, the Rocklin players did not go down without a fight, winning two out of four singles matches. Although the match was relatively easy, the fatigue collected from the long season finally started to kick in. After three hours under the grueling Sacramento sun, all four singles players in the starting line up were bugged by injuries.
While the Wildcats cherished the win, they knew they had a tough match ahead against first seed Menlo Knights.
Since four singles players were out with injuries, doubles became the focal point. Menlo is known for their doubles play and solid players, but the Wildcats won one out of three doubles and took the other two doubles matches to a third set. But with injuries bothering Wildcats, the Knights eventually came out on top.
“We were all disappointed when the match was done because it was so close, and we had such a good chance of making it to the finals,” Jia reflected. “But overall, I think we put up a really good fight and I am proud of the team for how everyone played at CIF.”
Despite the loss, the Wildcats are optimistic and excited for next season, ready to make another mark on school history.