Normally at this time of year, the Menlo-Atherton boys are wrapping up another PAL Bay Division tennis title, which they did on Thursday with a 7-0 victory over visiting Burlingame.
While the Bears won their seventh straight league dual-match title and improved to 96-1 since the final three matches of 2008, this season has been unlike any other.
It was about a month ago that M-A coaches Carlos Aguilar and Tom Sorenson were informed by Menlo-Atherton Principal Matthew Zito that the tennis program would be losing part of its facility in order for a new two-story building to be erected.
The Bears were told they would lose Court 7 along with the tennis plaza that housed two sheds used for an office, changing room, for storing equipment and program history -- display cabinets and memorabilia.
In addition, there would be no place for spectators to watch action on the first three courts.
Suddenly, playing for yet another league title was overshadowed by the potential damage to the tennis program.
"There was no talk of any of this being replaced," Sorenson said.
Aguilar and Sorenson quickly contacted parents and donors while team members and other students circulated a petition to gain support for the tennis program.
As support grew, Zito and the members in the Sequoia School District behind the new building took notice.
Sorenson and two team parents met with Zito on Monday and the dark cloud that was hanging over the tennis facility is appearing to dissipate.
"There's lots of talk and possibilities," said Aguilar. "Nothing in concrete yet, but it's gone from potential disaster to potentially being a positive situation. There's been a ton of support."
Aguilar, a former M-A tennis player, contacted his former doubles partner and longtime program donor Steve Westly. A 1978 Stanford graduate, Westly was the State Controller and Chief Financial Officer of California from 2003 to 2007 and was one of the top candidates in the Democratic primary for Governor of California in the 2006 election.
Dick Gould, Stanford's Director of Tennis, also got involved and marveled at the tennis facility at M-A.
"He's been a huge supporter," Aguilar said of Gould's involvement.
Said Sorenson: "I think the district is very amenable now, over placement for the (new) building and space for relocation of the court. We're heading on a good path to resolution."
Sorenson said it was important that "People need to be reminded. Matt Zito has always been a good friend of the tennis program. I don't harbor any resentment. We were just shocked (at the initial news). I think it will work out.
"I have to give Matt a tremendous amount of credit for re-visiting his original position."
After the initial shock of possibly losing court and storage space, cooler heads prevailed.
"Obviously, the need for classrooms is great," Sorenson said. "They're looking at an influx of hundreds of students. I think the new freshman class will be the largest ever. I think the original size of the school was around 1,600 students."
Menlo-Atherton, like many schools, is bursting at the seems with 2,157 students (according to the CCS). New buildings are springing up on campus and available land is quickly disappearing. Fortunately for all concerned, the tennis situation appears on the way to being solved.
"A lot of minds have opened," Sorenson said. "All the people involved are working together, rather than against each other."
The Bears, meanwhile, kept their unbeaten league season intact with its blanking of Burlingame. M-A has only San Mateo and Woodside left next week before heading into the Central Coast Section team tournament. The Bears earned an automatic berth with its latest victory.
With two matches remaining against Woodside and San Mateo, the Bears have a chance to go undefeated in PAL play for the sixth time in those seven years. Last year, M-A reached the CCS semifinals for the first time in 29 years before falling to eventual runner-up Saratoga.
"I have to say as strong as our team was last year (the best team in the history of M-A), although we didn't have crazy depth like last year, as it turned out, we have plenty of depth this year," said Aguilar. "We got a great freshman who plays No. 4 (Jeffrey Jorgenson), a transfer from Bellarmine (Jackson MacDonell) and some siblings of current players like Theo Novak and Chris Iyer, whose older brothers are seniors.
"After winning seven straight PAL titles, it's hard to believe that we're confident that an eighth is entirely possible. We lose three seniors, but the top four undefeated singles players are back and we have tons of depth in the doubles."
Aguilar and Sorenson were able to juggle their lineup against Burlingame with No. 1 singles player, Reed Fratt, moving to No. 1 doubles and winning easily with Danny LaPorte, 6-1, 6-1. Casey Morris moved up a spot to No. 1 and also posted a 6-1, 6-1 triumph. Axel Brenner won at No. 2, 6-2, 6-1, and Jorgensen and Camillo Saueressig won at No. 3 and 4 singles while losing only a combined three games. All told, the Bears dropped just eight games in singles and 13 overall.
"For a public school that gets who they get year after year, we have been particularly blessed with the young men we've gotten over the last several years," Aguilar said. "They've created a culture similar to Menlo School, that winning is a tradition and they have carried on with that tradition.
"To the boys' credit, they act like they've been there before and give their opponents the utmost respect and the other coaches have complimented us over and over. Nothing lasts forever, so we are enjoying the ride while it lasts!"