by Alex Valdes
Some doubted that Palo Alto High badminton players Tod Sacerdoti and Ari Schneiderman could pull it off. There isn't anybody wondering anymore. Sacerdoti and Schneiderman dominated last week's Central Coast Section tournament in boys doubles, capturing four matches en route to winning the championship. In Saturday's final, they defeated Milpitas' Long Huynh and Quy Nghien, 15-5, 15-9.
Sacerdoti helped capture the doubles crown in 1993.
It was a banner showing for Palo Alto. Jia Hu won the girls singles title with a 15-7, 15-3 win over Silver Creek's Judy Thong. She also won four matches by lopsided margins.
And, in mixed doubles, Matt Nichols and Ana Del Rosario lost to Lynbrook's Mike Tang and Grace Cheng in the championship match but beat Mountain View's Billy Li and Jessica Chan, 6-15, 15-12, 15-12, to finish in second place.
Sacerdoti and Schneiderman had something to prove to the naysayers who didn't think they could win it.
"We were pretty confident," said Sacerdoti, a senior. "But most everyone questioned us because they said that together we weren't very good. A lot of people didn't think we would win SCVALs (they did)."
For his own part, Sacerdoti had confidence enough in his and Schneiderman's abilities, so much so that he opted to compete in doubles rather than singles, where he had played during the regular season and had compiled a 16-0 overall record.
"When I was a sophomore, I played doubles, and last year I played singles," Sacerdoti said. "It's more fun in doubles. I was kind of bored playing singles. In the SCVALs, I would be playing the same people I played all year. Doubles was a challenge. And I wanted Ari to have a chance to win a CCS championship."
Another factor in Sacerdoti's decision to play in doubles was his confidence in Schneiderman.
"He can play really well," Sacerdoti said of Schneiderman. "But sometimes I don't think he feels confident in himself. I saw him at junior nationals (in mid-April) and he was playing (doubles) with Dave Welch, who I played with two years ago at junior nationals. Dave is a strong doubles player, and everyone was watching, and Ari played probably his best doubles I've ever seen. That's when I decided we could win (CCS)."
With his high school career behind him, Sacerdoti sets his sights on his summer plans, which include a 10-day training camp in July for 10 United States and Canadian players--five boys and five girls. After that, it's on to the Olympic Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo.
It should be a valuable experience for Sacerdoti, who will be attending Yale in the fall.
At the camp, he hopes to gain good exposure to Canadian players and "learn their style and how they train." At the Olympic Festival, Sacerdoti said that "It will give me a chance to play at higher level of ability. It's a good chance to learn to play with people much better."
Longer range plans include those at Yale, where he said he wants to "try to start a training program. I'm not sure if the funding, the court time or the coaches will be available. If I can't get that stuff started when I go to college, then my goals might go toward education."
Perhaps, his ultimate dream can become reality--a chance to play for the U.S. at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games--something that would require "four years of intense training"--currently consisting of practicing with the Stanford club team, at a Foothill College class and in South San Francisco with other high school athletes.
As for Hu, the sophomore sliced through the competition almost too easily. She won her first two matches on Friday, then ripped past Thong in the winners-bracket semis, 15-1, 15-3. Later, after Thong had wended her way out of the losers bracket, Hu again won. Three match wins were by straight sets. Hu was second at CCS last season.
Other Palo Altans didn't fare as well. Dan Goldberg lost his first two matches on Friday and was eliminated, and Fernando Soriano won his first match--15-6, 15-1 over Sequoia's Alvaro Calderon -- but then lost his next two and was ousted.
In mixed doubles action, Gunn's Jerome Tsui and Athena Wong lost their first match, won two in the losers bracket but finally exited the tourney with another defeat.
Palo Alto's John Bellardo and Eric Dwight made a good run at the doubles title, winning their first two matches on Friday, but they eventually finished in third place. The Paly team of Wilson Chow and John Nichols took fourth.
Back up to the Table of Contents Page