Sports

Menlo girls reach CCS tennis final, but Palo Alto is ousted

The job is halfway done for the Menlo School girls in their quest to capture a long-awaited Central Coast Section tennis title.

The Knights advanced to their first championship match title since 2006 with a 4-3 victory over No. 5 seed St. Ignatius (19-4) on Monday at Courtside Club in Los Gatos.

That victory assured Menlo of a berth in the CIF NorCal Championships, which begin Friday and conclude Saturday at the Natomas Racquet Club near Sacramento.

The only question at this point is whether the Knights go in as the No. 1 seed or No. 2.

That will be determined Wednesday when top-seeded Menlo (24-1) takes on No. 3 and two-time defending champion Monta Vista (20-5) in the CCS title match, also at Courtside, starting at 1:30 p.m.

Menlo has not won a CCS title since 2005, when the Knights defeated (coincidently) Monta Vista, 4-3. Since then, the Matadors have won four section crowns -- eliminating Menlo in the semifinals the past three years.

The Knights would like to end that losing streak to Monta Vista in section competition, but likely will need their best effort of the season. Menlo coach Bill Shine rated Monta Vista as the favorite before the playoffs began.

Menlo put itself in position to test Shine's ranking by defeating a tough St. Ignatius team. The Knights held a 3-2 lead when junior Helena Ong survived a first-set tiebreaker and a 4-1 deficit in the second set to post a 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 victory.

"She regrouped and went on to win the next two games. That was the difference," said Shine.

Ong also came up with the deciding point in Menlo's 4-3 win over Monta Vista on Oct. 28. The Matadors, however, were missing two key players in that match -- including No. 1 singles standout Aiswarya Sankar.

Freshman Alice Yao gave Menlo a 1-0 lead against SI with a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 3 singles. Sadie Bronk and Sarah Schinasi prevailed at No. 1 doubles, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, and Melissa Tran joined with Paulina Golikova to win at No. 3, 6-4, 6-2, setting the stage for Ong's clincher.

Menlo will be seeking its eighth CCS title on Wednesday. No other team has won as many as seven, other than the Knights. Menlo would have had nine CCS titles at this point, had it not been for the Matadors knocking off the Knights in the finals in 2003 and '04.

Should Menlo win the CCS title and sweep three matches and the crown at NorCals, the Knights' 28-1 mark will rank No. 2 in program history to the 30-1 campaign compiled by the 2001 team.

Monta Vista advanced on Monday by ending Palo Alto's fine season, 5-2, at the Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club. The Vikings (19-6) were playing in only their third CCS semifinal in program history and were hoping to reach their first title match since 1981.

Paly did knock off the Matadors during the SCVAL De Anza Division season, but Monta Vista was missing two of its best players at the time. Both were back Monday -- even though No. 1 singles player Aiswarya Sankar fell to Paly senior Aashli Budhiraja, 6-3, 6-2. The Vikings' only other win came from Felicia Wang at No. 4 singles, 6-0, 6-0.

Budhiraja and Wang are among the seven seniors that coach Andy Harader will lose. The others include Elena Chavez, Samantha Dewees, Hollie Kool, Julianne Lee and Caroline Nore.

2013 GIRLS' CCS TENNIS PLAYOFFS

First round

Carmel 5, Aragon 2

Valley Christian 5, Evergreen Valley 2

R.L. Stevenson 6, San Benito 1

Carlmont 5, Los Gatos 2

Piedmont Hills 4, Aptos 3

Leland 5, Castilleja 2

Santa Catalina 4, St. Francis-CCC 3

Hillsdale 5, Salinas 2

Second round

St. Francis 7, Carmel 0

Monta Vista 6, Valley Christian 1

Palo Alto 7, R.L. Stevenson 0

Saratoga 6, Carlmont 1

St. Ignatius 7, Piedmont Hills 0

Leland 4, Los Altos 3

Mitty 6, Santa Catalina 1

Menlo School 5, Hillsdale 2

Quarterfinals

Monta Vista 4, St. Francis 3

Palo Alto 4, Saratoga 3

St. Ignatius 4, Los Altos 3

Menlo School 4, Mitty 3

Monday's semifinals

Monta Vista 5, Palo Alto 2

Menlo School 4, St. Ignatius 3

Wednesday's finals

At Courtside Club, Los Gatos (1:30 p.m.)

No. 1 Menlo School (24-1) vs. No. 3 Monta Vista 20-5

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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