In three years as the tennis coach at Central Catholic High, Natalie Wagner hasn't traveled far from home.
That will change Tuesday in the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV team tennis tournament.
Fresh off its upset of second-seeded Los Banos, No. 7 Central Catholic looks to keep the good times rolling as it ventures into Solano County to face No. 3 Vanden.
"Sometimes, I don't mind being the underdog. Sometimes, you play with more heart than confidence and it pays off," Wagner said. "They're going into another county, playing people we have no idea about. In three years, I've never taken this team out of the area, but they know they can work hard and hard work pays off. That's our mindset right now."
On the other side of the D-IV bracket, No. 4 Livingston looks for an upset of its own. The Wolves face top-seeded Vista del Lago.
In D-II, No. 3 Gregori, the Modesto Metro Conference champion, soars into Tuesday's semifinal match at No. 2 Laguna Creek of Elk Grove. The Jaguars have yielded just two matches in wins over Bear Creek and Pitman.
On Monday, No. 2 Sonora hosted No. 3 West Campus in the semifinal round of the D-I coed tournament. Top-seeded Riverbank welcomed No. 5 Argonaut in an all-Stanislaus District showdown in the D-II coed semis.
Led by singles players Dane Juarez and John Dunn, Central Catholic has enjoyed a resurgent season.
The Raiders closed the Valley Oak League season tied for second with Oakdale. Dunn finished third at the VOL Singles Tournament, and then teamed with Juarez to place second at the Division II Doubles Tournament at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville last week.
Those moments set the backdrop for Friday's upset of No. 2 Los Banos in the team tennis tournament. The Raiders swept the doubles competition and pulled away from the Tigers, 6-3.
"Going in, I felt like we had a good chance," Wagner said. "I knew it would be tight and the kids pulled it off. We were tied 3-3. I don't like all the pressure being on doubles, but when you have three of them playing, you have a pretty good chance. We did it. Our doubles knew they had a job to do and no one let up ... not one time. That was my advice to them. Get every ball back and play to win."
The Raiders' top doubles, Ryan Wagner and Peter Fogarty, rallied for a three-set victory over Los Banos' Kyle Jackson and Patrick Martin, 6-7, 6-2, 10-7.
Central Catholic's other two tandems, Robert Wagner-Evan Corsiglia and Moises Nunez-Adrian Cuevas, made quick work of their competition. Wagner-Corsiglia steamrolled, 6-2, 6-2, while Nunez-Cuevas was even more impressive in a 6-1, 6-1 triumph.
Dunn, Justin Traina and Will Grimes won their singles matches to keep the Raiders even with the Western Athletic Conference heavyweight.
Coach Wagner credits Juarez, the team's No. 1 singles player, and Dunn for setting the tone.
"(Dunn) motivates the kids. 'Come off the court with a win,' that's his advice," she said. "And Dane, he plays the hardest position and doesn't get the most wins, but he stays for every match and cheers for his teammates.
"The thing I like about those guys, they're very equal."