By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
It was perhaps appropriate that the Menlo-Atherton and Menlo School boys' tennis teams wrapped up unbeaten league seasons on Thursday. The squads, after all, are connected by more than just proximity to each other.
For the past two seasons, the Bears have seen their fine campaigns end at the hand of the Knights in the Central Coast Section playoffs. Menlo has gone on to win section titles both times.
In each of the past two seasons, Menlo-Atherton has gone 14-0 in the PAL Bay Division before eventually falling to Menlo at CCS. On Thursday, the Bears once again put the finishing touches on another 14-0 PAL campaign with a 7-0 sweep of visiting Aragon.
The Bears' focus now shifts to the upcoming PAL Individual Tournament and then the CCS playoffs, where they hope to get a high enough seed so not to meet Menlo in the first two rounds. The Knights have won nine CCS titles while the Bears have just one, in 1985 (a 4-3 win over Gunn), in their only championship match appearance.
Menlo-Atherton co-coaches Carlos Aguilar and Tom Sorenson aren't expecting a finish like in '85, but they certainly won't rule anything out after a season like this.
"Shocking," said Aguilar, when asked about the Bears' 14-0 league finish. "We thought we'd get to the PAL playoffs and hopefully make it to CCS, but . . . this is an overachieving team."
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Bears (currently 16-2), who went 19-2 last season and had senior Alec Haley win the CCS individual singles title. Haley graduated, along with the team's No. 2 singles player and a doubles team.
Aguilar saw incoming freshmen Scott Morris and Nick Fratt play during the summer but had no idea what their impact would be.
"I knew they'd make the team," Aguilar said. "But, they improved so much."
Morris ended up becoming the first freshman in Aguilar's 11 years at M-A to start at No. 1 singles while Fratt earned the No. 3 singles spot behind sophomore Richie Sarwal at No. 2 and ahead of junior Matt Giordano at No. 4.
With the talented Perkins twins, Christian and Jesse, returning for their junior seasons at No. 1 doubles, the Bears appeared to be pretty decent this season. It turned out even better.
The Bears head into the postseason having gone 42-0 in the PAL Bay Division during the past three seasons while compiling a 52-9 overall record during that time. With only two seniors playing regularly – Daniel Windham and Cam Kelley – the future looks even brighter for the Bears.
While Menlo-Atherton was taking care of Aragon, Menlo School was wrapping up another West Bay Athletic League title (12-0) with a 7-0 triumph over visiting Harker while improving to 21-1 overall.
Menlo sophomore Andrew Ball defeated Karthik Dhore, 6-4, 7-5, at No. 1 singles. Senior Andrew Carlisle celebrated Senior Day by topping Derek Zheng, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 2 singles. Freshman JT Nishimura defeated Chris Chang, 6-0, 6-1, and senior Kyle Sum beat Justin Yang, 6-0, 6-2, at No. 3 and 4, respectively.
The Knights will host the WBAL individual tournament Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26-27.
In another WBAL match, host Sacred Heart Prep (8-3, 10-8) defeated visiting King's Academy, 6-1, as Daver Refioglu, Nick Pizzuti and Cameron Kirtpatrick took the top three singles. The Gators will travel to Crystal Springs on Friday to close out the regular season.
In nonleague action, Adam Zorin won a pair of tiebreakers at No. 3 singles to help secure Gunn's 4-3 victory over Cupertino on Thursday as the Titans continued their late-season push toward a possible CCS playoff berth.
Zorin won his match, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (10-8) and Jinyan Jiang won at No. 2 singles, but Cupertino took three singles in an unusual five-singles lineup. Only two doubles matches were played, but Gunn swept them while losing only three games combined while improving to 11-7 on the season.
Sacred Heart Prep remained just a game back of first-place Menlo School following an 18-7 romp over visiting Burlingame on Thursday. Michelle Gonia scored five goals and had two assists while Caroline Cummings added five goals and one assist as the Gators improved to 5-1 in league (12-5 overall). Kendall Cody added three goals and two assists while Liz Eder got her first goal of the season.
Menlo-Atherton wrapped things up early with an eight-run fourth inning that clinched a 13-3 PAL El Camino Division victory over visiting El Camino on Thursday. The game ended after the Bears reached the 10-run mercy rule. Katie Vallarino picked up the victory in addition to getting two hits and driving in three runs.
Erin LaPorte added three hits while Hannah Rosenfeld drove in three runs and Lauren Diller had two RBI and a pair of hits for the Bears (2-1, 7-4). Alex Guitron finished with two hits as M-A pounded out 11 in just four innings.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Aryana Yee, Annie Apffel and Ginna Freehling all had two hits and combined for five RBI to pace host Castilleja (4-2, 5-9) to a 15-5 victory over Pinewood on Thursday. Janise Thompson had three hits and three RBI for Pinewood.
It was pretty much cruise control for Menlo-Atherton as it coasted to a 125-38 victory over host Woodside while remaining unbeaten and atop the PAL Bay Division standings on Thursday. The Bears (5-0) won every event and didn't need any season-best times to accomplish that. Kei Masuda (200 free, 100 free), Hick Henze (200 IM, 100 back) and Evan Navarro (100 breast, 100 fly) all scored doubles in addition to swimming legs on winning relay teams.
Menlo-Atherton overcame five victories by host Woodside and used its depth to remain unbeaten and atop the PAL Bay Division standings with a 100-65 triumph on Thursday. The Bears (5-0) got a pair of victories from freshman Kindle Van Linge (200 free, 100 free) while freshmen Nicole Zanolli (200 IM) and Maddie Pont (100 breast) also provided individual triumphs.