M-A's shot at tennis perfection | April 13, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 13, 2012

M-A's shot at tennis perfection

Bears are closing in on a fourth straight unbeaten PAL season

by Keith Peters

With Menlo School dominating the boys' tennis scene by winning Central Coast Section titles in four of the past five seasons and 10 times since 1998, other teams have had to make due with something else.

Fortunately for Menlo-Atherton coaches Tom Sorenson and Carlos Aguilar, their team has been able to focus on more than just a short stay in CCS during that time.

Since mid-April of 2008, the Bears have not lost a regular-season dual match in the PAL Bay Division. That streak started following a 4-3 loss to Burlingame on April 8 of that year. Since then, the Bears have won 52 straight.

The latest victory nearly came on the anniversary of that last loss as the Bears produced a 6-1 triumph over, appropriately enough, visiting Burlingame on Wednesday. M-A improved to 9-0 in the PAL and 14-2 overall.

"We just need to get the boys their undefeated season for a fourth straight year and then focus on CCS," said Aguilar.

Aguilar said, however, that there's really no focus on the streak, other than motivation.

"It's just to get the boys to understand that if they work hard in practice and do the best they can each and every match. That's all we ask of them.

"Other than the occasional mention by a player or parent, a la 'wouldn't it be cool if we went undefeated (again)', it's never mentioned. We make no assumptions and treat each year as a new beginning."

After three wins to finish the '08 season, the Bears compiled a 14-0 league mark in 2009. They followed that up with a 12-0 mark in 2010 and a 14-0 league record in '11. During this streak of good fortune, M-A has compiled an overall record of 67-12 (including this season).

M-A seniors Matt Giordano, Zeke Brown and twins Christian and Jesse Perkins have never lost a regular-season league team match during their four-year career. All four were victorious on Wednesday.

The brothers teamed for a 6-2, 6-1 victory at No. 1 doubles while Brown posted a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 4 singles. Giordano and senior partner Jordan Sontag (who wasn't playing as a freshman) posted a 6-3, 6-2 victory at No. 2 doubles.

M-A had a rematch with Woodside on Thursday (the Bears beat the Wildcats on Monday, 6-1) and still has four league matches remaining against teams it has beaten by either 7-0 or 6-1.

An expected fourth straight PAL regular-season title will earn M-A another berth into the CCS playoffs that begin in May. The Bears last won a section crown in 1985, their only such title. M-A has advanced past the opening round of the playoffs in the past three seasons, twice being eliminated in the quarterfinals by Menlo School.

In fact, the Bears have been stuck in Menlo's side of the bracket in each of the past four years. Since the Knights are heavy favorites to win a fourth consecutive CCS title on May 11 at Courtside Club in Los Gatos, the Bears need to find a way to steer clear of the champs.

Keeping the winning streak alive certainly will help.


Menlo-Atherton has two goals on Friday — defeat visiting Half Moon Bay as quickly as possible and then get to the prom.

The school's annual big dance forced a change in this week's schedule, sending the Bears to the coast on Wednesday so the players could be closer to home on Friday with quicker access to the dance.

The switch nearly backfired as M-A had to hold on for a 9-8 victory in PAL Bay Division action.

The Cougars got off to a 2-0 lead before the Bears rallied for four runs in the fifth. Half Moon Bay answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-4 lead. Menlo-Atherton scored five runs in the top of the seventh and then held on.

Nick Lange (5-0) picked up the victory for the Bears (4-1, 14-4) with 6 2/3 innings with Dylan Cook earning the save when Lange got into trouble in the bottom of the seventh as the Cougars rallied for three runs.

Alex Aguiar had two triples and three RBI for M-A with teammate Sam Falkenhagen adding a triple and two RBI.

In an opening-round game of the Bishop Gorman Classic in Las Vegas, Oaks Christian of Thousand Oaks jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in defeating Menlo School, 12-2, on Wednesday morning.

The Knights (9-6) helped the Lions with six walks, two hit batters and three errors as Oaks Christian (11-4) also pounded out 11 hits in a time-limit shortened game.

At the Elite Eight Baseball Tournament at St. Francis High, Palo Alto (15-3-1) played for seventh place on Thursday night after being unable to play on Wednesday.

The Vikings were scheduled to play in a consolation game at 11 a.m., but were unable to compete due to a district rule that prevents students from getting out of school before 1 p.m.

Paly dropped an 8-1 decision to St. Mary's (Stockton) in the first round on Tuesday as the Vikings managed just one hit. St. Mary's wound up in the title game.

Also on Tuesday, Gunn returned from spring break and gave up a season-high — and nightmare-inducing —10 walks, but came from behind three times to defeat visiting Pinewood, 12-10, in nonleague action.

The Titans improved to 11-5 with their sixth-straight victory while Pinewood fell to 5-3.

Senior southpaw reliever Charlie Smith got the win for Gunn, pushing his record to 3-1. But, it was definitely a team effort, with junior Chris Rea getting the start, with junior Kevin Sharp, senior Jon Wong, and senior Ryan Gorman also getting in some relief work and enduring a muddy, horrendous pitching mound (due to the rain).

The story was not limited to Smith getting the win, but how he did it. In the bottom of the sixth inning, with two on, he drilled his first career homer over the right-center wall, getting three RBI to retake the lead for the final time.

Senior Jake Verhulp, who is headed to Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., hit his second home run of the season, a three-run laser shot over the right-field wall. Both Smith and Verhulp had two hits on the day, with Verhulp also contributing a double.

Boys' golf

Palo Alto suffered its first loss of the SCVAL De Anza Division season and fell into a tie for first place with Gunn following a 199-203 setback to Homestead on a soggy Sunnyvale Muni on Wednesday. John Knowles of Paly shared medalist honors with a 1-over-par 36 as the Vikings dropped to 7-1 in the division.

Boys' lacrosse

Tuesday night's soggy lacrosse contest saw heavy intermittent rain as host Palo Alto earned a hard-fought 10-6 SCVAL De Anza Division victory over Burlingame. Despite the Panthers' hustle — winning the ground-ball battle 38-35 — the Vikings' superior execution enabled them to gradually distance themselves from their scrappy league rivals.

Tied 1-1 at the end of the first, Palo Alto pulled away for a 5-3 lead at the half, and a 7-4 margin at the end of the third quarter as the Vikings moved to 5-1 in league (8-3 overall) while Burlingame fell to 2-6 (4-7).

Crisp passing by the Vikings meant that eight of their 10 goals earned assists. In comparison, just one Burlingame goal was assisted. Palo Alto co-captain Kris Hoglund was high-point man for the game, with two assists and four goals (with Paly's two unassisted scores).

Junior teammate Skyler Anderson notched two goals and an assist, as did senior Matt Lam, who also captured seven face-offs. Josh Stern and co-captain Jonny Glazier also scored, with Glazier, Jordan Gans, Zach Levitan, and junior Logan Mendenhall getting assists. Mendenhall had to be carried off the field in the first half with an apparent ankle injury.

Paly split goalie duty between Andre Kouchekey, who tallied 10 saves in three quarters, and Tyler Valenti, who had four saves in the fourth.

Girls' lacrosse

Gunn grabbed an early lead and held on for a 14-9 nonleague victory over host Menlo-Atherton on Wednesday. The Titans improved to 6-5 while the Bears fell to 4-4.

Gunn dominated the midfield and went on two four-goal runs to lead 8-5 at the half. The Titans were led by Madison Sabbag and Katie-Rose Skelly who scored five and four goals, respectively. M-A began improved its draw control in the second half, but could not come back despite four goals from Emily Carlson.


Gunn is still in the thick of the SCVAL El Camino Division race thanks to a 12-0 victory over host Cupertino on Wednesday in a game that started on March 26 but was halted due to rain with the Titans holding a 3-0 lead while batting in the third inning.

The game resumed from that point on Wednesday with Gunn (4-1, 5-7) finishing off an eight-run inning to grab an 11-0 lead. Nat Oda, Claire Collins and Carly Fisher all had doubles in the big inning to support Klausner's pitching. She finished with a five-inning no-hitter and 12 strikeouts after the game was stopped due to the 10-run mercy rule.


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