Sports

Menlo's streak of CCS tennis titles comes to a end in 6-1 loss

 

It was all about the tennis streaks at the 2016 Central Coast Section Team Tournament finals on Friday at Bay Club Courtside in Los Gatos.

The St. Ignatius boys came with with a No. 2 seed -- their highest ever -- and 24 straight wins, the best in school history. Menlo came in with a No. 1 seed, three straight 7-0 wins in the tourney and a streak of seven straight CCS team crowns -- with the Knights shooting for an unprecedented eighth.

Clearly, something had to give with history being made and lost. St. Ignatius made it, but Menlo (19-4) did not as the Wildcats (25-0) came away with a 6-1 victory that was a lot closer than the score indicated.

"They fought hard," Menlo coach Bill Shine said of his players. "They're (SI) a great team. They were the better team today."

The match was billed as one of the best finals in decades and it pretty much lived up to the hyperbole as four matches went to three sets as the teams battled for nearly three hours.

"It was a great match," SI coach Craig Law said after his team won the first CCS title in program history. " 'Together' is our motto. Together is how we got through this."

While SI was playing in only its first-ever finale, Menlo was competing in its 19th with 14 championships won. At stake Friday was a shot at an unprecedented eighth straight section crown.

Had Menlo achieved that goal, the Knights would have moved out of a tie with Gunn's seven straight from 1972-78. What's significant about that streak is that when the Titans' shot at No. 8 misfired in a 5-2 loss to Carmel in '79, that setback ended Gunn's historic streak of 200 straight dual-match victories. At the time, the streak stood as a national record.

Thus, SI's victory over Menlo had the impact of the Titanic hitting the iceberg as the Knights lost to a CCS team for only the first time in eight years.

"That's a good run," Shine said of his team's seven straight CCS titles. "I didn't think that would happen. To have it go this far is great."

And now that Menlo and Gunn still share the streak?

"That'll be there forever," Shine said. "I won't be around to see it (the tie) broken."

Shine had hoped that his team's experience at the CCS level, compared to SI's, would help carry his team Friday. That, and the fact the Knights had six seniors playing against SI's four. The Wildcats also had four freshmen in their lineup.

"That's what I was hoping," Shine said. "But, their freshmen did a great job."

SI's victory was Menlo's worst loss in the CCS finals since a 6-1 setback to Saratoga in 2004. The Knights lost to Gunn in 1972, 7-0, the first year the section tournament was held.

"It's tough on the seniors," Shine said. "I'd rather remember what they've accomplished rather than what they didn't."

The senior class -- Lane Leschly, Nathan Safran, Gabe Morgan, Alex Neumann, Michael Quezada, Dylan Pace, Kylee Santos and David Roy -- have helped produce a 98-9 overall record in four years. That includes three CCS titles and three NorCal crowns.

"I'm proud of my team for not giving up and not giving in," said Shine.

Menlo trailed 3-1 with No. 2 singles plus No. 1 and 2 doubles still playing, all in the third set. The Knights needed to win all three. The No. 2 doubles tandem of Neumann and Pace, however, wound up dropping a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 decision as Pace battled leg cramps in the third set. It was just not meant to be on this day for Menlo.

The Knights, however, will have a shot at redemption when they head to Folsom's Broadstone Racquet Club to defend their NorCal title on May 20-21. Menlo has won the past seven and 12 overall.

Clearly, there are still goals ahead for Shine's team.

"We'll be back," he said. "We have the core group of guys."

That includes sophomore Siddharth Chari, who produced Menlo's lone victory with a 6-3, 7-5 triumph at No. 1 singles over SI senior Jayson Fung. Other starters returning include sophomore Clark Safran and Andrei Volgin in singles plus Mark Ball in doubles.

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