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."
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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.