The Tigers were hoping to have a chance at securing a third playoff spot in the Central California Conference when they hosted Central Valley High on Tuesday, Oct. 15, but the fate of the Tigers had already been decided before the match ever started.
Patterson was hoping to leapfrog over Merced for the final team playoff spot, but due to tiebreaker rules, Merced had already been awarded third place heading into Tuesday’s action.
Close 5-4 losses to Buhach Colony and El Capitan on Oct. 3 and 8 and a loss to Merced 6-3 on Sept. 26 ended up being critical setbacks for Patterson’s playoff push, that began so promisingly earlier in the season.
Head coach Raustand Nzoule was happy to see his team in the playoff hunt after entering the season with a blank expectation from his squad, but lamented missing out on a qualification once the chance of a playoff berth was on the table.
“We did better than I expected, but as the season went on, they did well and you start having more expectations,” Nzoule said. “We had a chance to go, but we had a lot of close losses. They could have gone either way, but they did not seize the opportunity.”
Nzoule pointed to experience being a big factor in Patterson’s playoff demise.
“It came down to experience. When it came to the skill level, they were all there. The league was really balanced, but they didn’t have the experience,” Nzoule said. “One player could have made the difference on the whole thing.”
With that context in mind, head coach Raustand Nzoule took the opportunity to honor the seniors on the roster by playing as many as he could during the final match of the season over his normal lineup.
The Tigers were trading blows with Central Valley deep into the lineups, but Patterson dropped their final match of the year 6-3.
Patterson finished the season 7-7 overall. Central Valley ended the year at 3-11.
Golden Valley, Buhach Colony and Merced will represent the CCC at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division playoffs.
The CCC will hold its singles finals on Thursday, Oct. 17. Nzoule said he intends to take his strongest returning players to give them some singles tournament experience, but stated he has not finalized who he intends to take to the CCC singles tournament on Thursday.
The CCC doubles tournament is set to take place on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Nzoule stated that every player on the squad will have a chance to play amongst themselves for the right to represent Patterson at the doubles tournament.
Following the CCC tournaments, it will be back to the drawing board for PHS tennis. The program will be tasked with replacing 17 seniors next fall.
Nzoule is optimistic about his team moving forward, but stated that a huge hurdle for the program is a current lack of courts to play on. Patterson has had to make do with four courts, while other programs typically have six or more. Nzoule explained this restricts their ability to get players reps during practice and extends the match times into the dusk hours when hosting other teams for league competition.
“We need more courts if we hope to compete against the other schools,” Nzoule said.