The Menlo seniors will take a three-year plus record of 91-1 into this weekend's National Invitational Boys Team Tennis Tournament hosted by Corona del Mar High. No group of Menlo seniors has ever played 92 matches with just one loss.
The Knights also will be seeking to defend their tournament title, something no Menlo team has ever achieved. Menlo won this tourney in 2010, finished second in 2011 and won last year. Reaching the finals on Saturday for a fourth straight season also will be a first for coach Bill Shine's squad.
And, speaking of Shine, he takes a record of 387-41 in 17 seasons into the weekend. He's 13 victories shy of 400 wins with the Menlo boys. Should the Knights successfully defend their title and keep winning, No. 400 could arrive on April 19 with a home match against Clovis.
All the streaks and records, however, hinge on this weekend. Despite being the defending champ, Menlo is seeded only No. 2 behind University (Irvine).
"I don't care," Shine said of the seeding slight. "Now the boys are motivated."
Surprisingly, the No. 1 seed has never won this tournament, now in its 14th year.
Menlo, seeded No. 2 last year, will begin its quest to repeat on Friday morning against Gilman School of Baltimore, Md. A victory will move the Knights into an afternoon match against either Potomac (Md.) or Brophy Prep (Ariz.). Both first-day matches are at Corona del Mar.
Saturday could find Menlo matched against No. 3 Corona del Mar at The Tennis Club while the finals are set for the Palisades Tennis Club at 3 p.m.
Joining Menlo from the Central Coast Section will be Bellarmine Prep, the No. 4 seed. The field features 16 teams, six from outside California. The winner thus becomes the unofficial national champion, since there are no other tournaments like this in the country.
Menlo is led by seniors Andrew Ball, Daniel Morkovine and Richard Pham. All were named the the All-Tournament Team last year. Michael Hoffman, William Boyd and Eric Miller also are seniors.
"This particular group gets it," Shine said. "We talked about their legacy and how they want to be remembered down the line."
The Knights breezed to a pair of 7-0 victories in WBAL matches against Crystal Springs and Pinewood this week, losing a total of only 17 games and one set. After each win, the Knights were back on the courts practicing. Last week, in a 7-0 win over King's Academy, Menlo dropped only two games.
"The reason why they're good is because they have pride," Shine said of his team.
Getting a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning, Sacred Heart Prep strolled away with a 3-2 nonleague victory over visiting Menlo-Atherton on Wednesday.
The Bears (4-3) brought in reliever Erik Amundson with two on and one out in the eighth and he issued an intentional walk to the Gators' No. 8 hitter, Hank Robson. SHP's Brad Gritsch then worked a four-pitch walk to bring in the winning run as the Gators improved to 7-3 heading into Friday's nonleague game at Burlingame at 7 p.m.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, host Palo Alto got three hits from Michael Strong in an 11-7 victory over Saratoga, which knocked the Falcons out of sole possession of first place. Strong also scored twice and drove in a pair as the Vikings improved to 2-1 in league (5-4 overall).
Austin Poore, Isaac Feldstein, Alec Furrier and Bowen Gerould all had two hits for Paly, which pounded out 15. Feldstein also drove in two runs. The Vikings blew the game open with 10 runs in the first inning.
Elsewhere, host Gunn fell to 0-3 in league (3-6 overall) following an 11-2 loss to Wilcox. The Chargers (2-1, 8-3) are deadlocked with Paly, Mountain View, Saratoga and Homestead for first place.
In nonleague action Tuesday, Menlo School (5-2) combined seven hits with six walks and five hit batters for a 14-4 win at Hillsdale. Graham Stratford and Will King each had two-out, two-run hits in the third as Menlo grabbed an 8-2 lead. Chris Atkeson picked up his third win of the season with four innings of one earned-run ball.
Menlo School senior Andrew Buchanan fired a 2-over par 37 to pace the defending champion Knights to a 200-205 WBAL victory over Harker at Palo Alto Hills Country Club on Wednesday.
Menlo junior Riley Burgess shot 39 and Ethan Wong finished with a 40. Menlo's freshman pairing of Jeff Herr and William Hsieh produced a pair of 42s.
The match was played in great weather conditions at the beautiful, but tough, Palo Alto Hills front nine. Buchanan's only birdie came on the challenging eighth hole, an uphill par-4, but that was nullified by a double-bogey on the third hole.
In another WBAL match, Sacred Heart Prep kept pace with Menlo with a 187-221 victory over host King's Academy at Sunnyvale Municipal.
SHP junior Bradley Knox birdied the second and third holes before finishing with seven pars to record a 2-under 33 for his nine holes. SHP sophomore Mister Keller also had two birdies, which were nullified by three bogeys during his 1-over round of 36 that helped the Gators move to 3-0 in league (5-0 overall).
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Avinash Sharma shot a 1-under 35 to help Gunn remain unbeaten in league despite a 197-197 deadlock with Mountain View at Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course. The Titans (2-0-1, 2-2-1) also got a 39 from Jack Jaffe, and 41s from Zack Tevanian, Curran Sinha and Herbert Sadler-Wong.
On Monday, SHP's Taylor Oliver shot a 4-over 75 to pace the Gators at the De La Salle Invitational at Diablo Country Club. SHP's Keller and Palo Alto's Grant Raffel each shot 76 while SHP's Derek Ackerman and Paly's Alex Hwang carded 78s.
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