Menlo School seeks perfection in CCS tennis final
The Menlo School boys' tennis team probably has season goals that other teams only dream about, no matter what has happened the previous season or who's presently wielding the racquets.
"An undefeated season is always the goal," said Menlo senior Justin Chan.
Chan has achieved perfection once in his career and come close to it on three previous occasions as the Knights have gone 27-2, 27-0 and 28-1 during his first three seasons.
A second perfect campaign is still on the line for Chan and his teammates, who will continue to seek perfection on Friday in the Central Coast Section Team Tournament championship match.
The top-seeded Knights (24-0) will take on No. 2-seeded Bellarmine (18-1) for the section title at Courtside Tennis Club in Los Gatos, starting at 12:30 p.m.
Menlo kept its perfect season intact with a 15-1 victory over No. 5 R.L. Stevenson on Wednesday in a semifinal in Atherton. Bellarmine dispatched No. 6 Saratoga, 11-7, in the other semifinal.
Both teams have earned berths in the CIF NorCal Championships, which will be played at the Natomas Racquet Club near Sacramento starting May 18.
Menlo will be seeking its (unprecedented) 11th section crown against a Bellarmine team the Knights defeated, 7-0, during the regular season. Menlo has not lost to a CCS opponent since 2008, when the Knights fell in the section semifinals. Since then, Menlo has gone 106-3 and won three straight CCS and NorCal titles.
They put themselves in position for another section crown with a dominating effort against RLS.
Playing the new three-singles, three-doubles round-robin format, Menlo swept the opening round, 6-0. When Victor Pham and Vikram Chari won their No. 2 doubles match in the second round, 6-1, it was 10-0 and the match was clinched.
Menlo coach Bill Shine was then able to sub in some of his non-starters, which resulted in the one loss — the Knights' first after blanking Mountain View (18-0) and Los Altos (15-0).
Menlo's top three singles players — Andrew Ball, Richard Pham and Chan — all won twice before sitting out the rest of the warm afternoon.
West Bay Athletic League rivals Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep will battle each other at least one more time when both compete in the CCS Championships on Tuesday at Rancho Canada (West Course) in Carmel Valley.
Both teams earned berths after finishing second in the respective CCS regionals this week.
On Tuesday, the Gators shot 377 at the CCS Regional I playoffs while trailing only R.L. Stevenson's 345. On Wednesday, the Knights did the same by shooting 385 to finish second to Palma (377).
Menlo-Atherton (393) and Gunn (405) missed out on Tuesday while Palo Alto (390) failed to advance Wednesday.
Menlo's score established a school record for low round in a CCS regional tournament. Contributing to the record effort was junior Andrew Buchanan, who shot a 3-under 68 to earn medalist honors. Senior Jackson Dean and freshman Ethan Wong each shot 78 while James Huber had 80 and Will Petit an 81.
Palo Alto's Sam Neithammer shot a 1-over 72 to qualify for the CCS individual tourney.
The Knox brothers, Kevin and Bradley, paced Sacred Heart Prep to its impressive showing as each shot 2-over 73. Andrew Vetter added a 74, Taylor Oliver shot 78 and Zach Lamb capped the scoring with a 79.
While M-A missed out on a trip to the finals, the Bears got Travis Anderson (72), Matt Tinyo (75) and Max Culhane (75) into the individual portion of the CCS Championships.
Menlo pulled off a big 8-6 victory over regular-season champion Sacred Heart Prep in the SCVAL playoff semifinals Wednesday on the Gators' field.
The Knights (12-10) built a 5-1 halftime lead against the Gators (13-5), who were missing at least two key players to injury, including starting goalie Austin Appleton. Sean Mayle filled in and made 10 saves, but it wasn't enough as Menlo held off SHP in the second half.
Nick Schultz scored three times and added two assists for the defending champion Knights while Ryan Grzeja also had a hat trick plus one assist. Wiley Osborne had one goal and one assist and Shuhei Kanata won 12 of 17 face-offs. Goalie Luc McNally made seven saves.
The victory moves Menlo into the SCVAL playoff championship game on Saturday night at Gunn High against No. 2 seed Menlo-Atherton. Game time is 7 p.m. The Bears (17-4) eliminated Palo Alto, 12-9, as Nick Schlein scored five goals and added an assist and Duncan McGinnis contributed two goals and one assist. Kotaro Kihira, Pierce Osgood, PJ Titterton and Trent Benedick all scored.
Palo Alto saw its season come to an end in a 20-9 loss to regular-season champ St. Francis in the SCVAL playoff semifinals on Wednesday night in Mountain View.
The Vikings (5-15), who won five straight matches to reach the playoffs after having to forfeit six league matches and 11 victories overall, received devastating news earlier in the day when former Paly player Emily Benatar, a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, passed away.
Palo Alto put itself in a hole immediately against St. Francis when junior Nina Kelty fouled out of the match following two yellow cards.
Track and field
It's back to work for the Palo Alto boys, who sprinted to the SCVAL De Anza Division title last week. Next up will be Friday's SCVAL Qualifier at Santa Clara High, bringing together the top qualifiers from the El Camino and De Anza Division finals.
The Vikings' goal will be to get all their top athletes qualified for next week's CCS semifinals, May 19 at Gilroy High.
The Paly boys scored 193 points and easily dominated the league-meet field with its display of speed. The Vikings scored 98 points in six events from the 400 on down, including both hurdles races. Los Altos finished second with 83 points.
Paly junior E.J. Floreal led the way by anchoring the 400 relay team to victory in a meet record of 42.42, then winning the 100 in a meet-record 10.70 as he led a 1-2-3-4 finish. He topped those performances by leading another 1-2-3-4 Paly finish in the 200 with a school and meet record of 21.16, the No. 2 time in the state before the weekend.
The time also ties Floreal for No. 9 all-time in CCS history and is the fastest CCS time ever run in a league meet.
Floreal had the state's fastest time until Khalfani Muhammad, a junior at Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), ran a state-leading 21.12 later in the day for the No. 5 time in the nation.
"Everything ran according to form, and more," said Fung, who boys' team won eight events while setting itself up for a run at the CCS title in two weeks.
The Vikings added 62 points in the field events with Victor Du taking the long jump at 21-5 1/2 and fellow junior Grant Shorin winning the triple jump (41-9 1/2) with Du second at 41-9. The two also added 14 points in the high jump while senior Tory Prati came up with a personal best of 48-1 1/2 while taking second in the shot put. He added a third place in the discus, throwing 130-8.
In the girls' meet, Palo Alto finished second with 79 points with Mountain View winning the championship with 149 points. Gunn was third with 72 points.
Paly won the opening 400 relay in a season best of 49.50, the No. 5 time in the CCS this season. Torrie Nielsen, who later finished second in the 100 in 12.73, teamed with Pippa Raffel, Lydia Guo and Anna Dukovic for the victory.
Raffel added a victory in the long jump with a personal best of 17-10 1/2.