The Sonora High School tennis team has the chance to add to their historic season Wednesday.
For the first time in more than two decades, the Wildcats will play for the Sac-Joaquin section championship. It’s just the second time a Sonora team has made it to the final match.
It’s a fitting opportunity for a team that’s put together a special season.
They’re on a 10-game win streak, outscoring their opponents 84-6.
Getting here has been three years in the making, said coach Sam Segerstrom.
After winning the Mother Lode League title in 2015, Segerstrom’s first year as head coach, the roster dwindled as seniors graduated and others moved on to other sports.
That left him with a group of sophomores who were lacking experience.
“They were kind of thrown to the wolves,” said Segerstrom.
They faced teams packed with seniors from strong youth tennis programs.
“We knew that experience was going to pay off,” he said. “That’s what makes me so proud. They have just worked hard and set goals.”
Sonora High School doesn’t have its own tennis courts, so five days a week, the team travels to Columbia College for practice.
“The kids have sacrificed a lot and so have their parents,” said Segerstrom. “It’s been impressive that a team and student athletes without courts, traveling just to practice, have made it to the section championship. It’s unprecedented.”
It’s just one of the things that has impressed Segerstrom about this team.
This year’s regular season started off strong with the Wildcats cruising through their first three matches with wins.
They beat Argonaut, who ended up being the No. 2 seed.
And they won against the defending champion Amador by an impressive 8-1.
“Our goal from there was to continue to take care of business,” said Segerstrom.
And so they did.
The Wildcats lost just once in regular season action, to Argonaut.
Mother Lode League tennis is filled with small schools with strong tennis programs fed by community youth tennis organizations.
“For small schools, they can be powerhouses,” said Segerstroms. “Especially in Jackson.”
Many of the student athletes on Sonora’s roster picked up a racket for the first time as high schoolers.
“Through hard work and love of the game they have made it to the top of the MLL and potentially the top of the section,” said Segerstrom.
Last year, the team made it to the playoffs and Segerstrom saw a glimpse of what kind of success was possible. His team has not disappointed with their dominant play.
Other coaches have taken note. When the MLL all-league selections were announced, Sonora all but cleaned up.
Junior Kate Hovatter is the Wildcats’ No. 1 singles player and went 12-0 in the regular season. She was voted MVP. She took home the individual title at the Mother Lode League tournament.
Senior Haley Fieldler was also undefeated as the No. 2 singles player. She took home first-team all-league honors. She finished second in the MLL singles tournament, falling to Hovatter in the finals.
Senior Jake Evans, the No. 1 boys player, went 10-2 in league play and earned league MVP honors.
Senior Thomas Johnson was undefeated as the No. 2 singles player and was also named to the MLL’s first-team all-league. He took home the singles tournament championship with a win over Jake Evans.
The section representation was all Sonora. It’s the first time a team has managed the one-two finish in both boys and girls, said Segerstroms.
Next up for the Wildcats is the match-up championship-driven teams dream about.
They’ll take on Placer. They’re the No. 1 seed and they’ve won the section title seven years in a row.
“They‘ve been on our radar in terms of where we want to go,” said Segerstrom. “We’re going to have a game plan and we believe we can win. We don’t have anything to lose.”
Play begins at 3:30 p.m. at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville.