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May 13, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

SHP slays SHP slays (May 13, 2005)a tennis goliath

Gators upend six-time champ Menlo in section finals to reach NorCals

by Rick Eymer

David has a new weapon. Forget the pebble and sling. The underdog is now wielding a tennis racquet.

The Sacred Heart Prep boys' tennis team played that underdog role to the fullest, toppling long-time tennis goliath, Menlo, with a shocking 5-2 victory in the Central Coast Section Division II championship match Thursday at Courtside Tennis Club in Los Gatos.

For Menlo (21-4), it was its second straight setback in the CCS title match. For Sacred Heart Prep (21-1), its first appearance produced one of the biggest victories in school history and earned the Gators a trip to their first Northern California tournament, May 20-21 at the Fremont Tennis Club.

"It helped being the underdog," said Tyler Snell, Sacred Heart's lone senior.

"Yes, that helped motivate us," said SHP freshman Erik Blumenkranz.

Snell and Blumenkranz clinched the championship point with a 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win at No. 1 doubles over Menlo's Andrew Grauer and Daniel Goldstein.

"We were not just happy to make it like some people thought," Snell said. "We wanted to win it. We saw the articles and he (Menlo coach Bill Shine) assured there'd be a sweep in doubles. But, that wasn't going to happen. We knew we had a good chance to beat them.

"I'm so excited I won a CCS title," Snell continued. "And, we won a match we weren't supposed to win."

Sacred Heart Prep, which fell in the second round of CCS last season, was bolstered by the addition of four talented freshmen this season. Two of those first-year players, Jamie Hutter and Billy McCall, helped the Gators sweep Menlo away in singles.

After Menlo had taken a 1-0 lead when Mark Keegan and Jason Przybyla posted a 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win at No. 2 doubles, SHP sophomore Adam Davison beat Menlo senior Christian Hansen at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-4, to deadlock the match.

Hutter then upended Menlo senior Andrew Diehl at No. 1 singles, 6-1, 6-3, for a 2-1 SHP lead. Sacred Heart Prep sophomore David McCall then knocked off Alex Kaufman at No. 3 singles, 6-4, 6-4, to set the stage for Snell and Blumenkranz to clinch the title.

Ironically, Blumenkranz attended Menlo Middle School before transferring to Sacred Heart Prep. And, Gators' head coach Losaline Mafileo played for Shine when he coached the boys and girls at Pinewood.

"It was ironic playing against my old coach," Mafileo said.

And even better beating him.

"At the beginning of the year, we talked about CCS," said Snell. "There were people who didn't believe, but you can see who's on top now."

Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep started a match earlier this season that was rained out. The Knights led at the time, but the Gators didn't have their regular lineup yet.

"Before, we didn't have a full lineup," said Davison. "That affected us. We have to credit the doubles because they've made the biggest improvement since then."

Davison said he has practiced against Hansen and most of the players know each other well.

"We're all friends," Davison said. "But, it's Menlo-Sacred Heart Prep and that's a pretty good rivalry. We're pretty much even. I know the Menlo players and the Sacred Heart Prep players. I know should be favored in all the singles. We were pretty confident . . . We've beaten teams that are a lot better than Menlo. So, we knew we could do it. We just had to go out and show it."

Added Snell: "I think there's a stronger aura around us now. Anybody who knows these teams know it (the win) is no surprise. It's just a surprise that people assume that Menlo is a tennis God, and that Sacred Heart Prep is not good in any sport. This could get us some publicity and a little extra pull with the eighth-graders!"

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