Sports

New tennis tournament will bring its own heat this weekend

 

This time of year usually finds Menlo School girls tennis coach Bill Shine and his team heading to Fresno for the annual California Classic. But, not this weekend.

That, of course, makes Shine quite happy for at least of couple of reasons.

First, temperatures in Fresno are expected to reach 105 degrees on Friday and 101 on Saturday. In Palo Alto, it will be 90 and 81, respectively. Second, instead of making the 2 1/2-hour drive to Fresno and spending the night, the Knights can stay, and play, at home in the first annual Golden State Tennis Classic held at Menlo School and Stanford University.

A third bonus is the quality of competition. The Golden State Classic will bring together 15 of the state's top teams, plus Punahou of Honolulu (Hawai'i), winner of 42 state championships -- including the past 13.

In Fresno, the top teams usually have two easy early matches and perhaps two tough ones. At the Golden State Tennis Classic, there should be no easy matchups.

"There's not one team that I asked that didn't come," explained Shine. "All the top teams will be here. Punahou is really, really good."

Menlo is the defending Northern California champ while Peninsula of Rolling Hills is the 2014 SoCal champ, and features returning National High School Tennis Association All-Americans in senior Ena Shibahara and junior Ryan Peus.

Other NorCal teams entered include 2013 CCS champ Monta Vista, 2014 CCS and NorCal runner-up St. Francis, Leland, Menlo-Atherton, Saratoga, St. Ignatius, Amador Valley and Redwood. From the south, there's Santa Barbara, Dana Hills, Valencia, Arroyo Grande and Mira Costa.

"Every team gets to play at least one match at Stanford," said Shine. "It's a good time of year and it should be a lot of fun. The support has been fantastic."

Monta Vista coach Gene Fortino came up with the idea, which would eliminate the travel to Fresno (plus the heat) and provide better overall competition.

"We believe it is the strongest girls high school tournament in the country," said Fortino.

Menlo will host Valencia on Friday at 9 a.m. Should the Knights win, they'll play either Mira Costa or Saratoga at Stanford at 1 p.m. That winner moves on to Saturday's semifinals, at Stanford, at 8 a.m.

The winner of each bracket will play in the championship match at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center on Saturday at noon. The top eight teams from the semifinals all will compete at Stanford, while the lower eight will play at Menlo.

The Knights tuned up for this weekend's tournament with a 5-2 nonleague triumph over visiting St. Francis on Tuesday. The season opener for both teams was a rematch of the 2014 Central Coast Section championship match, also won by Menlo with a 5-2 score.

The Knights and Lancers also met in the NorCal finals, with Menlo posting yet another victory by the identical 5-2 score.

The CCS crown ended a title drought for Menlo, which last won a section crown in 2005. The Knights went into the tourney seeded No. 5 and became the lowest-seeded team to take the crown.

"We just felt that there were four or five teams with a very good shot, and we were one of them," Shine said of CCS expectations. "I didn't think we were favored. I never go into a season thinking like that . . . at the end of the season, we were just getting better and better."

There were two reasons for that. One was chemistry and the other was doubles play.

"The chemistry of the team really came together," said Shine. "You just can't teach chemistry. And, how far the doubles came made a difference. That really turned into our strength."

Menlo's doubles looked strong against St. Francis as the Knights swept all three matches in straight sets.

Seniors Mia McConnell and Melissa Tran teamed at No. 1 for a 6-2, 6-2 victory. At No. 2, senior Schuyler Tilney-Volk and freshman Vivian Liu posted a 6-0, 6-3 win while junior Kaitlin Hao and sophomore Kathryn Wilson won at No. 3 by a 6-4, 6-1 count.

Tilney-Volk and Tran were doubles partners last season, but Shine decided to break up the tandem.

"I feel like I have to spread out the talent," he explained. "I'd rather have three teams that are decent rather than one strong team."

Shine lost three seniors -- Liz Yao, Sadie Bronk and Allie Miller -- off last year's team that finished 23-4 and on an 18-game win streak. That streak is now 19 following the win over St. Francis.

Speaking of streaks, Shine enters his 20th season having won 19 straight league titles while his players have won 218 straight league dual matches -- an ongoing state record. Shine heads into the weekend with a 440-80 mark at Menlo.

Helping keep those streaks alive will be a fairly young singles lineup that includes juniors Alice Yao and Georgia Anderson plus freshmen Ashley Vielma and Taylor Gould. Vielma is nursing a sore shoulder and missed the St. Francis match. That moved everyone up with Yao winning at No. 1, 7-6 (4), 6-2), Gould falling at No. 2 (6-4, 6-2) and Anderson winning at No. 3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Sophomore Elika Eshghi moved into No. 4 singles and fell, 6-4, 6-1.

Gould, by the way, is the daughter of former Stanford All-American swimmer Rick Gould and the granddaughter of Stanford tennis coaching legend Dick Gould.

"Taylor Gould is a player," said Shine. "She's going to be good. She has the tennis DNA."

After this weekend, some other good early season matches for Menlo will be at Monta Vista (Sept. 17), against visiting Menlo-Atherton (Sept. 23), the Battle of the Bay (Oct. 2-3) and at Sacred Heart Prep (Oct. 8).

Sacred Heart Prep features defending CCS singles champ Sara Choy, a sophomore who opened her season Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Avanika Narayan of Palo Alto during the Gators' 5-2 victory.

In other tennis openers this week:

The Gunn girls had a downright forgettable season a year ago as they went winless in the SCVAL De Anza Division and were dropped into the SCVAL El Camino Division for 2015.

The Titans, however, are much improved this season with four new players holding down the singles spots and displayed that new talent on Wednesday with a 4-3 nonleague victory over host Palo Alto.

Sophomore Julia Pham plus freshmen Anna Yu, Olivia Aspegren and Yarden Gaffan are all new to the Gunn program, but swept the top four singles spots in straight sets against the Vikings (1-2), who swept the doubles. Gunn was competitive in doubles, as well, with all three matches featuring a tiebreaker.

2015 GOLDEN STATE TENNIS CLASSIC

At Menlo School and Stanford University

FRIDAY

First round

Mira Costa vs. Saratoga at Menlo, 9 a.m.

Valencia at Menlo, 9 a.m.

Punahou (Hawaii) vs. Amador Valley at Menlo, 11 a.m.

Dana Hills vs. St. Francis at Menlo, 11 a.m.

Peninsula vs. Leland at Stanford, 9 a.m.

Santa Barbara vs. Redwood at Stanford, 9 a.m.

Monta Vista vs. Menlo-Atherton at Stanford, 11 a.m.

Arroyo Grande vs. St. Ignatius at Stanford, 11 a.m.

Second round

Peninsula-Leland winner vs. Santa Barbara-Redwood winner at Menlo, 1 p.m.

(first-round losers also play at Menlo at 1 p.m.)

Monta Vista/Menlo-Atherton winner vs. Arroyo Grande-St. Ignatius winner at Menlo, 3 p.m.

(first-round losers also play at Menlo at 3 p.m.)

Mira Costa-Saratoga winner vs. Valencia-Menlo winner at Stanford, 1 p.m.

(first-round losers also play at Stanford at 1 p.m.)

Punahou-Amador Valley winner vs. Dana Hills-St. Francis winner at Stanford, 3 p.m.

(first-round losers also play at Stanford at 3 p.m.

SATURDAY

Winner's-bracket semifinals at Stanford, 8 a.m.

Consolation-bracket semifinals at Menlo School 8 a.m.

Championship match at Stanford, noon

Third-place match at Stanford, noon

Fifth-place match at Stanford, 2 p.m.

Seventh-place match at Stanford, 2 p.m.

Ninth-place match at Menlo School, noon

11th-place match at Menlo School, noon

13th-place match at Menlo School, 2 p.m.

15th-place match at Menlo School, 2 p.m.

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