A year ago, Buchanan and Clovis West were the clear-cut favorites to become the Central Section Division I girls tennis champion, with the Bears eventually edging the Golden Eagles 5-4 for the title.
That followed the six-year championship run of Stockdale.
But this year, the remodeled D-I figures to be a wide-open race with the addition of former D-II powers Garces and Memorial.
"It's going to be a dog fight," said Clovis West coach Mark Belman, whose team will get an up-close look at defending D-II champion Garces and Stockdale at this weekend's Lewis Cup tournament in Bakersfield. "It's real close. I wouldn't say there is one clear-cut team that stands out above the others."
By the estimation of several coaches, Clovis West, Buchanan, Bullard, Garces, Memorial and Stockdale are all legitimate title contenders, with Clovis East also being a dark horse for a spot in the Nov. 4 section finals.
Clovis West is the only team among that group that hasn't lost to an opponent from the section. But the Golden Eagles have been pushed in 5-4 wins over Buchanan and Bullard and a 6-3 win over Memorial.
Meanwhile, Bullard owns a 5-4 win over Buchanan, and the Bears have beaten Garces and Stockdale 5-4.
Said Buchanan coach Jonathan Slater: "The top teams are very, very close in talent this year."
- The marquee girls tennis matchup of the week takes place today at Bullard, with the Knights hosting Memorial in a CMAC showdown.
Bullard has ruled the CMAC in recent seasons, as Memorial had done in the NYL.