Menlo wins NorCal tennis title without three top players

Despite missing three starters, the Menlo School boys extended their run of titles at the CIF-USTA Northern California Regional Tennis Championships with a 5-2 victory over Dougherty Valley of San Ramon on Saturday at the Natomas Racquet Club.

Top-seeded Menlo (24-3) defeated Lowell of San Francisco on Friday, 7-0. The next day, the Knights shut down Jesuit of Sacramento, 7-0, in the semifinals then knocked out Dougherty Valley in 100-plus temperatures in the Sacramento area.

Menlo played without No. 2 singles standout Victor Pham and No. 3 player Vikram Chari, both gone off to USTA tournaments. The Knights also were missing sophomore Lane Leschly, who still is recovering by concussion symptoms following a surfing accident.

Despite missing three of its top four singles players, Menlo still won its sixth consecutive NorCal title, which coach Bill Shine said is just as sweet every time.

"They all feel special when I see the new kids on the team, and the excitement and camaraderie that's passed down from the older kids to the younger ones. They want to win, and they care so much -- as much as the older ones."

That was evident in the final as the Knights won top three singles. The clincher came down to the doubles matches.

"I told them on the changeover to have fun; they were in good shape," Shine said. "It was pretty pressure-packed though."

In the No. 2 doubles match, freshman Mark Ball and sophomore Michael Quezada fell behind love-40. They rallied then the teams exchanged at deuce before Quezada and Ball put it away, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.

"Michael was serving for the match at 5-4," Shine said. "They were down 0-40 played some of the best clutch tennis I have ever seen!! Wow, what a match."

The first Menlo player on the court, senior captain David Ball in a passing of the torch, ran out to greet his little brother and Quezada, closely followed by the Menlo team. Emotions poured out from all the players, coaches and parents.

"It can't remember the last time it was (that emotion-ridden)," Shine said. "It felt so good that they got to experience that, and got to continue the tradition of Menlo tennis."

Following senior night, David Ball and fellow senior Jake Rudolph drove up to Sacramento on Saturday in time to give Menlo a lift.

"Dougherty Valley is a great team, and the score didn't indicate how close it really was," Shine added. "It could have been us down 4-3."

Dougherty Valley had eliminated Central Coast Section runner-up Saratoga in the semifinals, 5-2.

After Quezada and Ball wrapped up their match, Kylee Santos and Dylan Pace elevated their play and wrapped up their victory at No. 2 doubles, as well. David Ball, Gunther Matta and Nathan Safran all picked up singles wins in the final match.

David Ball, the lone senior starter, finished his four-year career with a 107-5 team record along with four CCS and NorCal titles. Shine, meanwhile, improved to 430-45 in his 18 years with the program.

Pham, meanwhile, won the Boys 16s title at the USTA May National Selection Tournament at Stanford over the weekend. Pham went 5-0 while clinching the crown. Chari, meanwhile, traveled all the way to Cincinnati for a tournament and lost in the first round.

— Menlo School Athletics/Palo Alto Online Sports


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