The moment was three years in the making and, by the time it rolled around, an all-but-forgone conclusion.
West Ranch High girls tennis beat Valencia High, 13-5, Tuesday at Valencia to secure an outright Foothill League title, its first crown since 2011.
The feat was right in step with the timetable third-year coach Dina McBride laid out when she took over, and as the 2016 season progressed, it became clear no one would stop the Wildcats.
“It’s great knowing that we’re not a co-champ, that we were dominant today,” McBride said. “The girls deserve it. They’ve worked hard the last two years.”
PHOTOS: Valencia host West Ranch
The Wildcats (15-2 overall, 9-0 in league) took third place in 2014, McBride’s first season. Entering 2015, the goal was to finish in the top two, which they did with the help of two key transfers, Olivia Bloome and Una Stanisavljevic, and freshman newcomers Emily Andrews and Audrey Kim, who played doubles Tuesday and secured the match-winning 10th set, 6-4, in the second round.
This season the focus was on a Foothill League title, and for good reason. West Ranch added Hart transfer Nicole Alvarez, one of the league’s best returning singles players, and McBride’s daughter, freshman Jordyn McBride, who may now be the league’s best single.
Mixed with a veteran core headlined by Brittany Waugh and with Dina McBride’s tutelage, the product was a team deep in singles, deep in doubles, difficult to beat on all fronts.
“I had to lay the groundwork of technique with strategy. I knew it was going to take two years to get there,” Dina McBride said. “… I knew if they kept at it and they kept on the path, I knew by this year (we could do it).”
On Tuesday, the Wildcats pairing of Cori Raffish and Quinterra Walter-Eze swept three sets 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
Jordyn McBride beat Valencia No. 1 Amanda Tabanera, 6-1, before winning two other sets, both by 6-0 scores.
McBride and Tabanera played a thrilling tiebreaker set earlier in league (a match West Ranch also won 13-5).
The difference Tuesday, McBride said, was her level of belief.
“It’s all really new and exciting,” she said. “The thing I like best is that our team is like a family.”
In a way, it was all new for Raffish, too.
After two years of finishing third and second, she found herself on top of the Foothill League in her senior year.
“Valencia’s been our biggest rival for years,” she said, “and to finally get that edge over them means everything.”
Tabanera rebounded to win her other two sets for the Vikings, who had won 12 of the previous 14 league titles, and two in a row, entering 2016. The Valencia duo of Taylor Cohen and Nicole Stefani won two sets as well.
“Dina has put together a very competitive team that has been steady all season,” said Valencia coach Annie Kellogg, whose team is 11-8 overall and 7-2 in league. “…I felt proud of our Viking team for battling the wind and the Wildcats with all its heart.”
Wind gusts reached 15 mph Tuesday, challenging both teams.
West Ranch’s biggest obstacle, though, still lies ahead.
“We have to get ready for CIF. We’re in Division 1 so the competition will be fierce,” Dina McBride said. “…I don’t think we’re there yet. Managing emotions under pressure is another thing we have to work on — keeping a clear head.”
Says the woman who arrived with a clear vision.
Hart 15, Canyon 3
The Indians (7-7, 5-4) swept in doubles. Hart’s Mansi Sharma, Emily Thompson and Ariana Mantilla each won two singles sets.
Adrienne Kashay won three sets for Canyon (1-12, 1-8).
Saugus 11, Golden Valley 7
Megan Cho won three sets, all by 6-0 scores, for Saugus (5-9, 4-5). The Centurion pairing of Abby Bolks and Emily Belcher also swept three sets.
Kirsten Azarraga and Joyce Kim each won two sets for Golden Valley, which is 5-9 overall and 2-7 in league.