"It was a marathon," said Menlo coach Bill Shine. "The boys played from 8 a.m. to 11 at night."
Fortunately for Menlo, the long day proved to be well worth it as the Knights won all four matches and captured the tournament title with a 5-4 victory over defending champion University of Irvine.
For the No. 2-seeded Knights, it was their second title in three years at the Newport Beach event.
"It was amazing," said Shine.
The final was a rematch of last year's tournament championship, which University won, 7-1. Menlo won the previous year — also in a thrilling finale.
The 16-team tournament — considered the mythical high school national championships —is hosted by Corona Del Mar High and the teams play at five venues in the area. The format is similar to that of collegiate matches: five singles and three doubles played in pro sets. If there is a tie, the games are counted. This year, because of the crammed schedule, each match was played to six points instead of eight to speed things up.
In the first round that started at 8 a.m., Menlo rolled over Jesuit of Carmichael, 8-0. The second match was not nearly as close. The Knights trailed 1-2 in the second match, which began at 10:30 a.m., before rallying to beat Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) 5-3. Menlo then topped Torrey Pines (San Diego), 6-2, in the semifinals that started at 2 p.m.
Menlo was back on the courts at 8:30 p.m. against University, grabbing a 2-1 lead after doubles.
Richard Pham and William Boyd both lost their singles matches and University grabbed a 3-2 lead. After Menlo's Andrew Ball won, 6-4, it was tied again (3-3) before David Ball dropped his match, 6-3.
Menlo freshman Vikram Chari beat a senior to deadlock the match at 4, leaving the outcome to junior Daniel Morkovine. Trailing 5-4 and again at 6-5, Mokovine forced a tiebreaker and then won it, 7-1, to clinch the title.
Morkovine went 7-1 on the day, as did David Ball.
Menlo claimed the title despite not having senior Justin Chan, sidelined by illness, or freshman Victor Pham, out with an injury. David Ball and Chari filled in admirably to keep the Knights unbeaten this season.
Shine said his players actually got more pumped up when hearing that Chan and Pham were out, realizing they had a real challenge in front of them.
"I said, 'hey, this is where stories are made,'" said Shine. "I had a good feeling, but I didn't think we'd win it."
University, the No. 1 team in Orange County, played without All-American Gage Brymer, who was in Alabama playing in another event. Menlo's Andrew Ball and Richard Pham could have attended the same tournament, but chose not to "because they want to be with the team," Shine said.
Menlo was the second-smallest school entered, with local Sage Hill (450 students) being the smallest. Rancho Bernardo and Torrey Pines were the largest at 2,780 students each.
The field also included Memphis University School from Tennessee, Brophy Prep from Arizona and Horace Mann School from New York.
Menlo followed up the marathon tourney by beating Harker on Tuesday, 7-0, and Crystal Springs on Wednesday, 7-0, in West Bay Athletic League action to improve to 5-0 in league and 13-0 overall.
Menlo will take on Bellarmine on Wednesday at the Decathlon Club in Santa Clara, the Knights' last test before the Central Coast Section playoffs begin in May.
In a matchup between two-time NCS champion Redwood Christian and two-time CCS champ Menlo, it was the host Knights jumping out to an early lead and coasting to a 12-1 nonleague baseball victory on Wednesday. Chris Atkeson threw five shutout innings and had plenty of offensive support from Dylan Mayer and Austin Marcus, each with three hits, while Freddy Avis and Tom Flippin each had hits to drive in two runs for Menlo (5-4).
In Mountain View, Palo Alto gave up three runs in the bottom of the seventh to the host Spartans and dropped a 7-6 decision that knocked the Vikings out of sole possession of first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division baseball race on Wednesday. Paly (3-1-1, 9-2-1) fell behind Los Altos (4-1), a 14-11 winner over Los Gatos, after watching a 6-4 lead disappear in the final inning.
In Palo Alto, Gunn took the opening game in a home-and-home series against a SCVAL El Camino Division opponent. This time it was against visiting Fremont, 7-1, on Tuesday. The Titans pushed their record to 3-2 in league (6-5 overall) while the Firebirds fell to 2-1 (3-9).
Junior right-hander Chris Rea, youngest of the baseball playing Rea family, gave up one unearned run on two hits in a complete-game gem. He evened his record at 1-1. At the plate, Rea helped his own cause by going 2-for-2, with an RBI and a run scored.
Gunn remained atop the SCVAL De Anza Division with a 195-221 victory over Fremont at Palo Alto Municipal on Tuesday. Avinash Sharma led the Titans (3-0, 4-0) with a 1-over 37 while Jack Jaffe shot 38 and Jayshree Sarathy carded a 39. Anna Zhou (40) and Anson Cheng (41) rounded out Gunn's scoring while Stephen Wong also shot 41. Jordan Stibbard of Fremont earned medalist honors with a 1-under 35.
Sacred Heart Prep avenged last year's loss to Palo Alto in the SCVAL playoffs by handing the Vikings their first loss of the season, 10-8, on Tuesday night. The Gators (4-0, 5-0) took over sole possession of first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division while Paly dropped to 1-1 (4-1).
Sacred Heart Prep was led by sophomores Duncan Hoskinson (four goals), Frankie Hattler (two goals, three assists), Ryan Morrison (three goals) and Noah Kawasaki (one goal, one assist) while freshman goalie Austin Appleton had 13 saves.
Earlier Tuesday, host Menlo School beat previously undefeated Menlo-Atherton, 10-9, in overtime to give both schools identical 2-1 De Anza Division (Menlo is 3-1 overall; M-A 6-2 overall).
Wiley Osborne scored the winning goal after Nick Schultz had tied the game with less than two minutes left in regulation. Osborne also scored the winner in last year's league semifinal playoff win over M-A, also in OT. Schultz was making his season debut after being sidelined by an ankle injury. He and Connor Stastny each scored three times.
Nick Schlein had three goals and two assists for M-A.
Defending WBAL champion Menlo School opened its title defense with a 15-3 win over host Menlo-Atherton on Tuesday. The Knights (1-0, 2-3) got six goals and two assists from Michaela Michael for a season-high eight points, three goals from Ali Kim and two goals from Brooke Bullington.
In nonleague action, Castilleja routed host Sacred Heart Cathedral, 17-0, at Crocker-Amazon Park in San Francisco. The Gators were led by senior Martha Harding with six goals and one assist while Katherine Hobbs added four goals and four assists and Lou Biffar tallied three goals.
In a rematch of last year's SCVAL championship game, Palo Alto its loss in that game by beating visiting St. Francis, 19-17, on Wednesday night in SCVAL action. Paly (3-0, 5-1) was led by Kimmie Flather's three goals and two assists.
Gunn junior pitcher Claire Klausner struck out 16 for the second straight game, following up a perfect game last weekend with a one-hitter on Tuesday to beat host Mountain View, 6-0, in SCVAL El Camino Division action.
Klausner has struck out 39 batters in her three appearances this season, all victories for the Titans (2-0, 3-4).
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