Sports

SHP freshman Choy punches her ticket to CCS with tennis title

 

The singles finale of the West Bay Athletic League Individual Tournament was like a boxing match on Tuesday at Menlo School.

In one corner was Elizabeth Yao, whose heavyweight tennis credentials included winning last year's Central Coast Section singles crown.

In the other corner was a relative flyweight in terms of size and high school experience, Sacred Heart Prep freshman Sara Choy.

While the size differential was significant -- Choy stands only 4-foot-10 and Yao seemed at least a foot taller -- the title match proved to be style over substance. Think butterfly stings like a bee.

"I've played in a lot of tournaments," said Choy, who is ranked No. 13 in the nation in the 14-under division. "I play girls who are older and bigger than me. The bigger they are, the more power they have."

And, as they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

That loud thunk at Menlo School was Yao falling to Choy, 6-1, 6-1, as the diminutive Choy registered her third TKO over Yao this season.

"My type of game is counter-punches," Choy explained. "I don't let the other player dictate how I play."

Instead, it was Choy's patience over Yao's power that ultimately decided the match as Choy remained unbeaten this season and became the first Sacred Heart Prep player to win the WBAL singles title since Sam Rosekrans accomplished the feat nine years ago.

Choy's goal was simple in the final.

"I wanted to qualify for CCS," she said.

And?

"I wanted to win it," Choy added, with a big smile.

The key to the match was "returning her serves," Choy said. "Her serve is one of her strong points."

Choy kept returning shots while Yao got frustrated and tried to force the issue, which usually resulted in forced errors.

""It's frustrating when you play someone who gets everything back," said Menlo coach Bill Shine. "She (Choy) doesn't miss. She gets to everything. It's frustrating (to opponents). She's really a good player. She's not afraid to win. She's not intimidated. Here's a freshman playing a senior, the defending CCS champ, twice her size."

It made no difference to Choy, who swept through all four tournament matches while dropping only four games combined.

"She's probably the best player ever to come through Sacred Heart Prep," said veteran SHP coach Losaline Mafileo, who can't remember any previous player finishing the regular season undefeated -- certainly not a freshman.

Choy's third win over Yao, the two-time defending WBAL singles champ, was the most impressive.

"This is probably the only match in league that challenges her," said Mafileo. "The confidence is there."

Choy's victory gives her an automatic berth into the CCS Individual Tournament, which runs Nov. 24-25. Yao will have to receive an at-large bid in order to defend her title.

Also qualifying for CCS was Menlo's doubles team of sophomore Alice Yao and freshman Kathryn Wilson, who bounced teammates Mia McConnell and Sadie Bronk in the title match, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6). McConnell and Bronk also will have to receive an at-large bid to qualify for CCS.

Yao normally plays No. 2 singles for Menlo while Wilson is a member of the No. 3 doubles tandem. McConnell and Bronk, meanwhile, make up the Knights' No. 1 doubles duo.

In the third-place singles match, Julia Owens of Pinewood dropped a 6-1, 6-1 decision to Vi-Van Nguyen of Notre Dame-San Jose.

At the SCVAL El Camino Division Individual Tournament at Mountain View High, Palo Alto's Avanika Narayan was second in singles while teammates Maddie Lee and Halle Biorn finished fourth in doubles.

At the Peninsula Athletic League Individual Tournament at Burlingame High, Menlo-Atherton was well-represented in the finals on Thursday. Freshman Lanie Van Linge reached the singles finals following a pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins on Wednesday. In the doubles, it was an all-Bears affair with Sami Andrew and Julia Marks taking on teammates Julia Chang and Taylor Noble.

The winners will advance to the CCS Individual Tournament. Before that happens, the team event will take place starting next week.

The CCS seeding meeting will be Saturday, which may be as competitive as the tournament.

"Saratoga is unbeaten and has to be the favorite," said Shine. "After that, there are six teams that have a chance. We could be seeded No. 2 or seeded sixth."

Menlo compiled a 16-4 record this season while winning its 19th straight league title under Shine. Palo Alto, however, also went 16-4 while winning the SCVAL El Camino Division crown and Menlo-Atherton put together a 16-6 mark and won the PAL Bay Division with a 14-0 record. Sacred Heart Prep also has a shot at making the field with a 15-6 record.

"This tournament is going to be exciting," said Shine, whose team reached the CCS and NorCal finals last season before losing to Monta Vista. "It's the first time in a long while that more than two teams have a chance. I predict there will be a lot of 4-3 matches, mark my word."

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