Menlo tennis a step closer to tying historic CCS mark


It has been another season of tests for the Menlo School boys tennis team, which has in most cases reduced opponents to pop quizzes during a 23-1 campaign.

But, the postseason is underway and history is to be made. Thus, the Central Coast Section Team Tennis Tournament takes on the stature, say, of an AP test.

Last season, Menlo was missing a handful of players who were taking AP tests the day of the CCS quarterfinals. The Knights barely averted an upset in a 4-3 win over Palo Alto.

Wednesday will see athletes taking more AP exams, but none will be from Menlo. Fortunately for head coach Bill Shine, his players who were to be taking tests made last-minute changes and will be on hand to face St. Ignatius (20-5) in a CCS semifinal at Bay Club Courtside in Los Gatos at 1:30 p.m.

The only Menlo player missing will be junior Nathan Safran, who suffered a broken foot two weeks ago. Otherwise, the Knights will be at full strength.

That is a good thing as Menlo moves closer to tying Gunn's record seven straight CCS titles (1972-78). Two more victories will give the Knights a share of that historic streak.

St. Ignatius, meanwhile, may provide one of the tougher tests of the season for Menlo.

The Wildcats were unseeded, but blanked Piedmont Hills and No. 5 seed Menlo-Atherton (18-3) last Friday before downing No. 4 Gunn (14-7) on Monday, 5-2, to reach the semifinals.

"SI will beat Gunn and give Menlo a match," M-A co-head coach Carlos Aguilar predicted before Monday's quarterfinals. "They were not only as good as we thought, they were better. They never played their entire starting lineup during the season.

"When they played St. Francis, they were missing several players due to AP's and illness. We played really well, but they are that good! Next year they not only don't lose anyone, they are getting three 5-star recruits as freshman. They should have been seeded in the top three (for CCS), in my opinion . . .

Great season, nevertheless! We got a bad draw, plain and simple, but they were the better team no question."

The Menlo-SI winner will advance to the CCS finals on Friday, also at Bay Club Courtside at 1:30 p.m. Second-seeded Saratoga (16-2) and No. 3 Bellarmine (21-3) will meet in Wednesday's other semifinal, set for the Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club.

Top-seeded Menlo took a step closer to a title defense with a 7-0 win over West Bay Athletic League runner-up Harker on Monday.

Against the Eagles, Columbia University-bound senior Victor Pham defeated Ronak Baldua, 6-3, 6-0, at No. 1 singles. Gunther Matta, who is headed to play for Cal next season, won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 singles while junior Lane Leschly and freshman Siddharth Chari took straight-set victories.

Juniors Alex Neumann and Gabriel Morgan played to a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles. Freshman Clark Safran and junior Kylee Santos picked up a shutout at No. 2 while sophomore Mark Ball and junior Michael Quezeda won at No. 3 doubles.

Gunn faced an uphill battle with visiting SI and the outcome became evident quicly when sophomore Conrad Russell dropped a 6-2, 6-4 decision at No. 2 singles. Russell and senior Andy Zhou at No. 1 had been all but unbeatable this season.

Zhou did win his match, 6-0, 6-4, but the Titans' only other victory came at No. 3 doubles where Martin Vladimirov and Jesse Carlson posted a 6-3, 6-2 triumph.


First Round

Cupertino d. Santa Cruz, 6-1

St. Francis d. Crystal Springs, 6-1

Los Gatos d. Pacific Grove, 7-0

R.L. Stevenson d. Leland, 4-3

St. Ignatius d. Piedmont Hills, 7-0

Aragon d. Valley Christian, 4-3

Harker d. Carlmont, 6-1

Mitty d. Monterey, 7-0

Second Round

Cupertino d. Monta Vista, 4-3

Bellarmine d. St. Francis, 5-2

Homestead d. Los Gatos, 7-0

Saratoga d. RLS, 6-1

St. Ignatius d. Menlo-Atherton, 7-0

Gunn d. Aragon, 7-0

Harker d. Westmont, 4-3

Menlo School d. Mitty, 7-0


Monday's results

Bellarmine d. Cupertino, 4-3

Saratoga d. Homestead, 7-0

St. Ignatius d. Gunn, 5-2

Menlo School d. Harker, 7-0


Wednesday (1:30 p.m.)

No. 3 Bellarmine (21-3) vs. No. 2 Saratoga (16-2) at Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club

No. 1 Menlo School (23-1) vs. St. Ignatius (20-5) at Bay Club Courtside, Los Gatos


Friday at Bay Club Courtside, 1:30 p.m.

— Menlo School Athletics/Palo Alto Online Sports

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