Clovis West High's improvement in girls tennis continued to the wire Thursday in the Central Section Division I championship at Garces.
But it was in Bakersfield that the fourth-seeded Golden Eagles fell just short, losing 5-4 to the No. 2 Rams.
A match that extended more than 5 hours and into near-darkness came down to No. 3 doubles as Garces' Mia Jannino and Alli Cauzza edged Eryn Piearcy and Christina Mckoane 6-4, 3-6 (10-8) as the Rams won their first D-I crown in any sport.
"Tough one, but we have nothing to be ashamed of," said coach Mark Belman, whose Eagles defeated Buchanan 5-4 for last year's title after beating Garces 5-4 in the semifinals.
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Clovis West was top-seeded then, but not this season, when it advanced to the final after upsetting No. 1 Buchanan 5-4 in the semis. That occurred after the Eagles were swept by the Bears in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
Then to Thursday, when they faced a Garces team they had beaten 5-1 at the Lewis Cup in Bakersfield in early October.
"We were closing the gap all along," Belman said. "We just needed two more points."
His prematch handicapping had the teams splitting six singles matches, but sophomore Piearcy, Nicole Shinkawa, Anmol Bhatia and junior Courtney Bukilica gave Clovis West (16-8) a 4-2 lead entering the doubles.
Garces (22-2) then swept, including straight-set decisions in the Nos. 1 and 2 doubles by Zoe Tucker and Crimson Hochhalter, and top player Gracie Jacobs and Annie Berry.
D-V: Liberty finishes 17-0 season with title
Chloe Doyle, in No. 5 singles, and Amanda Matthews and Nicole Roy, in No. 3 doubles, won just seconds apart to clinch the match as top-seeded Liberty-Madera Ranchos closed a 17-0 season by defeating No. 2 Strathmore 6-3.
"To be sitting here 17-0, it's hard to fathom," Hawks coach Greg Ruland said. "The girls played marvelous tennis."
Liberty received singles wins from five juniors – Doyle, Annie Erickson, Eunice Castro, Jordyn DeChamplain and Jocelyn Hernandez.