Palo Alto girls tennis coach Andy Harader has been around the game long enough to know that things can change in a hurry on and off the court. He also understands that the smallest change can make the biggest difference.
Slightly altering his doubles lineup, Harader's decision led to one of Palo Alto's most significant victories in a long while.
The third doubles team of Anuva Banwasi and Agnes Mar meshed to the tune of a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory that clinched the eighth-seeded Vikings' stunning 4-3 victory over host No. 1 seed Monta Vista in Cupertino on Thursday.
How surprising was the win? The Matadors (20-4) lost to one CCS team all year and that was to SCVAL rival Los Gatos in the final match of the regular season, when the title had already been decided.
Of the other seven teams in the quarterfinals, Monta Vista played and beat six of them, including a 7-0 sweep of St. Francis, the No. 6 seed that upset No. 3 seed Menlo School, 4-3, on Thursday.
Palo Alto (11-11) advances into the semifinals against Cupertino (15-5) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Saratoga High. The finals are scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Bay Club Courtside in Los Gatos later Saturday. The Pioneers beat Saratoga, 5-2, to advance.
The West Catholic Athletic League co-champion Lancers (14-5) meet No. 2 seed Los Gatos (16-6) at Lynbrook High at 11 a.m. in the other semifinal. Los Gatos beat St. Ignatius, 6-1, to advance. SI shared the WCAL title with St. Francis.
Los Gatos, whose No. 1 player is two-time defending CCS singles champion Ashley Yeah, and Cupertino finished second and third behind Monta Vista in the SCVAL De Anza Division. Palo Alto placed fourth, losing twice to the Pioneers, 4-3.
Banwasi and Mar played with different partners in Paly's 7-0 victory over Carlmont on Tuesday. Considering how everyone played against the Scots, even the slightest change seemed unnecessary.
It takes a veteran coach like Harader to tweak the lineup at this point in the season and have it work out so well. The No. 3 doubles match was the only one of the seven to go to three sets.
Palo Alto's other three victories were in singles. Freshman Kamila Wong hasn't looked back since losing a 7-5 first set to Carlmont's Annika Lin.
Wong has only dropped six games since and they all came Thursday against senior Leslie Ligier, a three-star recruit rated among the top 60 in California.
Wong, a four-star recruit, is currently rated as high as 24th in California by some recruiting services. She's both feisty and strong and is unwilling to give up on many balls.
Wong will be playing in the CCS doubles tournament with Paly's No. 2 player Maddi Page. They placed third in the SCVAL tournament and are also seeded third in the CCS tournament.
Page, a sophomore, lost her match to freshman Rhea Rai, a five-star recruit, currently rated eighth in California and 31st nationally by some services.
Page is a four-start recruit herself and ranked 36th in California.
Iris Li, who won in a tiebreak on Tuesday, made it easier on herself Thursday, winning 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. No. 4 singles Isa Cossio won her match, 6-3, 6-0.
St. Francis vs. Menlo
The Lancers and Knights played a marathon of a match Thursday in Atherton.
"I was so happy with their fight, " Menlo coach Bill Shine said. "They really proved that they could compete with the best and they hung in there without getting down on themselves. Obviously it didn't go the way we wanted it to, but St. Francis is a really good team. We did everything we could to prepare, we were healthy, today just wasn't our day."
The Knights finished the season 18-6 after going a perfect 10-0 in West Bay Athletic League play and capturing a 25th consecutive league championship.
With six underclassmen in the starting lineup and four-year varsity players to help lead the way, Menlo will remain on the elite high school level for the foreseeable future.
The Knights dropped three competitive singles matches and a competitive doubles match. The event lasted just under three hours.
Freshman Tricia Zhang earned a straight set victory at No. 4 singles. Freshmen C.C. Golub and Brynn Brady won at No. 2 while junior Charlotte Lee and Elisabeth Westermann teamed for a three-set victory at No. 3.
WBAL doubles champions Zhang and Brady will play in the CCS doubles, which begin Tuesday at noon.
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