by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
All three of Taft College's fall sports teams are gearing up for a run to the playoffs, but all three also face tough regular season wrap-ups.
The Cougars were pushed to five sets last Friday but managed to get past a stubborn Merced team to solidify their hold on second place in the Central Valley Conference.
Taft improved to 9-3 in the conference and 15-11 overall heading into the final two matches of the regular season. Both are at home: tonight against undefeated eight-time conference champs Fresno City College, and Thursday when College of the Sequoias comes to town. Both swept the Cougars in the first round of conference play.
First serve for both matches in the Al Baldock Cougar Sports Center is at 6 p.m.
At Merced Friday the TC had to fight back after Merced won the opening set 25-21 with the Cougars grabbing the second 25-13 and looking like they might run away with the match.
However, the Blue Devils scrapped back to win a hard-fought third set 25-23 to take command again.
With their backs to the wall the Cougars cruised to a 25-14 win in the fourth set to force a tie-breaker they won 15-9.
Statistics were unavailable.
Reedley did the Cougars a favor by knocking Sequoias out of a second place tie with the Cougars.
As the conference heads into its final week the standings look like this:
Fresno 12-0 (18-4)
Taft 9-3 (15-11)
Sequoias 8-4 (10-6)
Reedley 8-4 (12-12)
Merced 6-6 (9-10)
Porterville 3-8 (3-12)
West Hills-Coalinga 1-11 (1-13)
Columbia 0-11 (2-21).
Both Cougar soccer teams have tough assignments in the final week of conference play.
The men made things more difficult for themselves Friday by losing a 2-1 heartbreaker at Fresno City College that snarled the CVC leadership. Taft, Fresno and West Hills-Lemoore are all 3-2 in the conference. The Cougars (3-2, 12-5-2 overall) are at Lemoore (3-2, 12-7-0) Friday, a team they beat at home in the first round, while Fresno is at hapless Sequoias (1-4, 3-13-2).
If the Cougars beat Lemoore and Fresno beats Sequoias, Fresno will claim the conference title by virtue of its two wins over Taft – 1-0 in Taft and 2-1 in Fresno.
But all three should make the playoffs. The loss to Fresno means the Cougars will have a lower seed and a tougher assignment in the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Cougar women (4-0 CVC, 11-5-1 overall) will wrap up the regular season with two conference matches this week – at winless West Hills (0-4, 0-12) this afternoon and at home Friday against Fresno City College (3-1, 15-1-3).