Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 3, 2013

Menlo coach a victory away from milestone

Shine can win his 400th dual match if Knights win their opener

by Keith Peters

In addition to coaching tennis for more than 30 years, Menlo School's Bill Shine also played a little himself. In fact, he reached the Central Coast Section singles final in 1972 and '73 — losing both times.

"That still haunts me," Shine said Wednesday. "That's something I always wanted to have."

It took Shine, who played at Los Altos High, a long time to put those losses behind him. Finally, he realized that his opponent both years — Nick Saviano of Gunn — was a pretty good player.

"He went to Stanford and later was ranked No. 17 in the world," Shine said. "That made me feel a little better."

These days, Shine leaves the playing to his Menlo players.

"I live through the kids now," he said.

Whatever success eluded Shine as a player has been replaced by his coaching achievements.

Shine, in fact, has an opportunity to reach a milestone with a victory on Friday when his top-seeded Knights (20-1) play host to Aragon in the second round of the CCS Team Tournament. He is 399-42 in 17 seasons at Menlo.

"It just means I've been around a lot, and that I've had really good kids," Shine said.

While he's had three teams complete undefeated seasons (1999, 2010 and 2012), Shine ranks this one as among the best — primarily due to its senior class.

"This particular group is deeper than I've ever had," said Shine. "In '98, we had a lot (of seniors), but not with the impact of this team. One thru six (for the seniors) is the deepest I've had. That's saying a lot because I've had some really good classes.

"We have three No. 1s, for sure, who would play No. 1 on any team in CCS. So, that is a real special class."

Those three are seniors Andrew Ball, Richard Pham and Daniel Morkovine. They have led a class that will take a 103-2 record during their careers into Friday's match. Should the Knights win their unprecedented 12th section title and go on to win a fifth straight CIF NorCal crown (and 10th overall), the seniors will finish a remarkable 110-2.

"That's really amazing," Shine said of the record. "And we're playing the best teams that I can find. It's not like we're ducking anyone."

No group of Menlo seniors has ever gone four years with just two losses. Last season's seniors, in fact, lost just three times while also winning 110 — the most-ever victories during a four-year span in program history.

In addition to Ball, Pham and Morkovine, the current senior class includes Michael Hoffman, William Boyd and Eric Miller.

The heart and soul of this group, however, is Ball and Pham. They've helped keep alive an amazing legacy of success that includes a 46-0 dual-match streak in league. They've also help keep alive an even longer league win streak, 194-0 during Shine's 17 years. The Menlo girls, also coached by Shine, have a streak of 198 straight league wins (and counting) heading into next fall.

Ball and Pham have been starters since their freshman season in 2010. Interestingly, both players suffered losses during Menlo's thrilling 4-3 win over Saratoga in the championship match that year. Since then, the two have lost on the same day only twice — at the National Invitational.

Ball and Pham will lead the Knights into the 2013 CCS team tourney against Aragon, starting at 2:30 p.m.

The Dons advanced with an 11-7 victory over Sacred Heart Cathedral on Wednesday. Other first-round matches saw Palo Alto (13-10) advance with an 18-0 romp over visiting Palma, Gunn (13-7) move on with an 11-7 victory over host Sacred Heart Prep (12-11), and Menlo-Atherton (19-3) fall to visiting St. Francis, 11-7.

With Paly facing No. 4 Bellarmine (19-3) on Friday and Gunn playing at No. 8 Leland (14-3), Menlo most likely will be the only local team still playing in Monday's quarterfinals. The semifinals will be Wednesday and the finals Friday, May 10, at Courtside Club in Los Gatos.

Menlo will be seeking a fifth-straight section title while chasing the CCS record of seven straight titles, set by Gunn from 1972-78. Palo Alto won six straight from 1991-96 and Menlo won six in a row (1998-03) when there were two divisions.

Menlo's current senior class is all about winning titles.

"Bill emphasizes championships," Pham said. "We know how many championships we've won."

Ball and Pham said this was passed onto them by previous senior classes and now it's their turn.

"I do think the seniors have set the tone for the team," said Ball. "We stay close friends on the court and off."

Both Ball and Pham agree that Shine has fostered this attitude by being able to keep all the players together, rather than having players off competing in tournaments.

"You have to give Bill props for doing a great job of keeping us here," said Ball. "Everyone wants to come out to practice every day."

Added Pham: "I know a lot of players who don't play for their high school team."

While a handful of Menlo players will be scattering to tournaments in Northern and Southern California the day after the CCS title match, they'll be on hand for the team.

Perhaps that's why the Knights have enjoyed so much success. It's team first and the competition just to get a chance to play keeps practices lively.

Pham and Ball rank winning national titles in 2010 and 2012 as their Menlo highlights, followed by the excitement of winning CCS their freshman year.

"That was awesome," Ball said.

And the prospects of finishing out the season with four CCS wins and three NorCal victories?

"I think the 110-2 sounds pretty cool," Pham said.

In Wednesday's first round:

Mason Haverstock and Jack Paladin won all their No. 1 doubles matches in the round-robin format for Palo Alto, which was the only team on the day to record a perfect score. Blake Smith also was perfect at No. 1 singles for the Vikings.

In Atherton, Gunn held a somewhat less-than-safe 7-5 lead (10 points wins the match) when coach Jim Gorman inserted Kiran DeSilva and Albert Leo — both reserves — into the lineup. Each responded with a victory in the third round of singles to help the Titans eliminate the Gators for the second straight season.

At Menlo-Atherton, the Bears forged a 3-3 tie after the first round of singles and doubles and St. Francis did the same to make it a 6-6 match. M-A freshman Reed Fratt won his third match in the final rotation, but the Lancers swept the remaining five to pull out the victory.

The current CCS format of three singles and three doubles in a round-robin format will end with this section tournament. The teams will return to four singles, three doubles next season.

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