Bill Shine wasn't exactly sure what to expect when senior Max Glenn made his season debut with the Menlo boys' tennis team on Wednesday.
Glenn, after all, had been sidelined since early in the basketball season after suffering torn meniscus in his right knee. The injury sidelined him for most of the hoop season and was expected to keep him out of tennis until at least mid-April.
Glenn, however, received medical clearance from his doctor and was suited up and ready to play in an important nonleague match against visiting Palo Alto. As it turned out, Glenn's return was more noteworthy than Shine had expected.
With junior Jamin Ball sidelined by illness and Patrick Chase moved into Ball's No. 2 singles slot despite being ill himself, Glenn's return was even more crucial in Menlo's 4-3 victory.
Shine decided to keep Glenn in doubles and moved sophomore Andrew Carlisle into No. 4 singles, where he would face Paly senior Dan Schwartz.
Realizing the tough situation facing Carlisle, Glenn asked Shine for a specific favor.
"He said, 'put Andrew on the court next to us. I'm not going to let him lose that match.' I've never had a player do that," Shine said. "He (Glenn) knew Dan Schwartz real well and I think he kept Andrew pretty cool. He (Carlisle) gets down on himself sometimes.
"I really think the difference in the match was Max winning his match and coaching Andrew during his. Max was not going to let him (Carlisle) lose his match."
Glenn and partner Ryan Duggal battled their way to a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Paly's Drew Pearson and John Mitchell, with Glenn serving the clinching points. Glenn then turned his vocal attention to Carlisle, who was headed to a third set against Schwartz.
Menlo was holding a 3-1 lead at the time, but all three remaining matches were in a third set. Palo Alto (11-3) needed to win all three while the Knights (12-2) needed just one victory.
With Glenn shouting encouragement along with the other Menlo players who had finished, Carlisle overcame a second-set loss to post a 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 triumph to clinch the victory over Schwartz, who suffered leg cramps late in the third set.
Carlisle's effort proved crucial when Paly sophomore Baramee Wongbanchai rallied to beat Chase at No. 2 singles, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, and the Vikings' No. 3 doubles team of Grant Audet and Alex Freeman also rallied for a 7-6 (7-1), 1-6, 7-6 (7-3) win over Brian Peltz and Zach Chase.
With that, Shine was able to exhale following the 2 1/2-hour marathon that didn't start until 4 p.m.
Shine, of course, was happy with Glenn's return and Carlisle's effort plus a big win at No. 2 doubles, where Kyle Sum and Jonathan Katzman (who don't normally play together) teamed to beat Paly's Alan Chen and Peter Tseng, 6-4, 6-4.
"I felt a little more confident when they won," said Shine, who was pleased with the overall depth his team showed.
"The depth of this team really came through," said Shine. "We're much deeper than last year."
And when the Knights get completely healthy . . .
"When everybody's healthy and I can move Max to No. 3 singles, we're going to be really, really tough."
Right now, the top three teams in the Central Coast Section look to be Bellarmine (14-0), Menlo and Palo Alto. Saratoga, which beat Paly on Tuesday (4-3) and Gunn on Wednesday (4-3) to improve to 8-0 in the SCVAL De Anza Division, is ineligible for postseason play.
The Falcons, who lost to Sacred Heart Prep in the Central Coast Section finals last season but nonetheless qualified for the NorCal tournament, failed to show up for NorCals and didn't offer an explanation. For that, Saratoga has been banned from postseason play this season -- opening the doors for others.
Despite its nonleague status, Wednesday's match did carry some importance. Menlo's victory now gives the Knights a leg up on a possible higher seed than Palo Alto. Should Bellarmine get a No. 1 seed and Menlo the No. 2, the Vikings could end up No. 3 and face the Bells in the CCS semifinals.
Paly coach Andy Harader still has a number of key matches ahead and could make a run at a higher seed. With Wongbanchai getting closer to 100 percent healthy after suffering two broken wrists last summer, he could move into the No. 1 singles spot and senior Sam Wong could drop to No. 2 or 3, with freshman Nicky Hu moving up. Hu won his No. 3 singles match against Menlo.
Palo Alto bounced back from the loss to Menlo to beat host Gunn on Thursday, 6-1.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division on Wednesday, it has been a tough season for the Gunn boys' tennis team, which has won only three of 14 matches.
While the Titans fell to visiting Saratoga, 4-3, the match showed just how dangerous Gunn can be. A day earlier, the first-place Falcons (8-0, 11-1) had knocked off previously unbeaten Palo Alto, 4-3.
Gunn (2-3, 3-11) won at No. 1 singles with Rajeev Herekar upending Nikhil Jayshankar, 6-3, 6-3, and at No. 4 with Clifton Wolak posting a 6-3, 6-2 triump. The Titans' No. 3 doubles tandem of Scott McKenzie and Paul Wang battled for a 3-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 victory, but the Titans couldn't squeeze out another win against the tough Saratoga doubles lineup.