Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 17, 2013

With CCS won, Menlo eyes NorCal tennis title

by Keith Peters

Just when you think the Menlo School boys' tennis program has achieved every milestone and broken every record, another is there for the taking.

That's the scenario for this weekend as the Knights take to the courts at the Gold River Racquet Club to defend their CIF-USTA NorCal Team Tennis Championship.

Menlo has won nine of the 14 titles since the event began in 1999, when the Knights captured the inaugural playoff title. Since then, only one team — Menlo — has won more than three straight titles.

The Knights, who hold the record of four straight from 2009-2012, can make that five in a row with three victories this weekend in the Sacramento area.

Top-seeded Menlo (24-1) opens Friday (1 p.m.) against the winner between Lowell (San Francisco) and Shasta. A victory by the Knights will put them into Saturday's semifinals against the winner of No. 4 Jesuit and Monte Vista (Danville) at 1:30 p.m.

The championship match will follow at 3:30 p.m. The opposite bracket features No. 2 seed and undefeated Miramonte plus Central Coast Section runner-up Serra (19-2), the No. 3 seed.

Menlo is coming off its 12th CCS title, a 13-5 victory over Serra last Friday at Courtside Club in Los Gatos. The Knights were missing the brother tandem of Richard and Victor Pham, who were traveling that day to a big USTA qualifying tournament in Southern California.

Despite the fact Menlo head coach Bill Shine had to juggle his lineup and was able to insert reserves into the third rotation of the three-singles, three-doubles format, the Knights won comfortably.

With the Pham brothers back in the lineup and the format back to four singles and three doubles, Menlo's senior class appears ready to equal program history by winning three matches and reach 110 career dual-match victories — tying the Menlo seniors from last year.

The current six-man senior class brings a four-year record of 107-2 into NorCals.

"That's pretty amazing," said Menlo senior Morkovine. "Obviously, it's a great class and we've had great coaching with Bill and David Wermuth. I'm proud to be a part of such a special class."

Morkovine played a significant role in the win over Serra. With the top-seeded Knights holding a 9-3 lead heading into the final rotation, Morkovine polished off his opponent 6-0 to clinch the win.

Serra was making its first-ever appearance in the CCS finals while Menlo was in its 15th. The showdown showcased the final go-round of the three-singles, three-doubles format. The CCS playoffs will return to four singles and three doubles next season.

While Shine had to juggle his lineup a bit, the expected result was still the same. Junior David Ball and sophomore Vikram Chari led the way with a 3-0 mark at No. 1 doubles and the rest of the Knights picked up the slack, as well.

"I wasn't very concerned at all," Morkovine said. "We have a deep team. And we knew they weren't going to be there."

Said Shine: "I was more concerned about the mood of the team. But it gave a couple of other guys a chance to play."

Shine moved freshman Lane Leschly from doubles to No. 3 singles and he responded with a pair of victories before sitting out the third rotation in favor of Nathan Safran. Eric Miller, a senior, and Gunther Matta, took over at No. 3 doubles and went 1-2.

"I'm happy for him," Shine said of Miller. "It was his first CCS championship match. I'm happy with the way that came out."

Of the five seniors who played Friday, the seniors produced eight of the 13 points.

While he loses a lot, Shine knows he'll have the players to defend titles next season.

"We'll be strong at the top; we'll be fine," he said. "We just won't be as deep as this team. This depth is ridiculous."

Serra would probably agree.

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