- Published on Tuesday, 27 April 2010 17:00
- Written by Pete Borello - Town Crier Staff Writer
What a difference a move can make. A year after languishing in the SCVAL De Anza Division, the Los Altos High boys tennis team is thriving in the league’s El Camino Division and bound for the playoffs.
“I’m proud of this season and how hard (the players) worked,” coach Cuong Duong said.
And the schedule has worked in their favor. The Eagles, who finished at the bottom of the difficult De Anza a year ago, clinched the top spot in the easier El Camino last week. By whipping Wilcox 7-0 April 20, Los Altos improved to 11-1 and locked up a berth in next week’s Central Coast Section team playoffs.
It’s the first time the team has won a league title under Duong, whose Eagles competed in the De Anza his previous 14 seasons as coach.
“Coming into this year, I told them we should be the favorite to win the league – and we did,” he said. “I’m proud of how they responded to the pressure I put on them.”
Los Altos also won a pair of non-league matches (over Valley Christian and Pinewood), leaving Cupertino as the lone team to defeat them. After clipping the Pioneers 4-3 early on, the Eagles fell to them 5-2 April 8 when two of Los Altos’ singles players were on vacation.
“That was too bad, because we were looking to go undefeated,” Duong said.
In the regular season, that is. The coach knows the CCS playoffs will be treacherous.
“I don’t expect to go far in the playoffs,” Duong said. “I’d be happy to win a round or two.”
Winning the El Camino won’t be enough to place the Eagles among the seeded squads, leaving them to face a formidable foe early on. But the players are eager for the opportunity.
“They’re looking forward to playing better opponents and see how they match up,” Duong said.
Los Altos’ strength is its depth, according to the coach. Duong has two solid singles players – No. 1 Justin Koehler and No. 2 Charlie Bergevin – and “from No. 3 singles to No. 4 doubles, we’re pretty consistent,” he said.
Koehler has beaten every No. 1 player in the division but Cupertino’s Manpreet Tiwana. A third-year varsity player, Koehler played at the top spot last season as well.
“He has a better record this year because of the competition, and he’s gotten better in terms of being more consistent,” Duong said. “He hits with more top spin this year and has gotten stronger and his serve is bigger.”
No. 2 player Bergevin, a senior, has played varsity tennis since his freshman year. “He’s done quite well,” Duong said, winning all but one of his matches this season.
Two players new to varsity round out the singles lineup. Freshman Lenoy Avidan plays No. 3 and sophomore Sean Gospe is at No. 4. Both are baseline players with good ground strokes and quick feet, according to the coach. Avidan has won most of his matches, while Gospe has lost only once.
The top doubles team comprises Bryan Cassella and Matt Hoang, seniors who paired up last month.
“I came to realize they would make a good team and put them together after the fourth match of the season,” Duong said. “They lost their first match together and that’s it. They’re good together – they complement each other.”
The No. 2 tandem, seniors Darren Choi and Charlie Falconer, are also in their first season as a team. Choi and Falconer have won about half their matches, estimated Duong, who would like to see them be more consistent.
The No. 3 team, Nick Frangos and Alex Kellogg, played No. 1 doubles on junior varsity last year. The juniors won a challenge for the third spot a month ago and have lost only one match.
“They are playing so well for us,” Duong said.
Spartans finish third
While Los Altos has flourished in the El Camino, Mountain View is having “a fair season,” coach Frank Smyth said. The Spartans are 8-4 in the division, good enough for third place.
“It’s been better than average,” Smyth said of the campaign, “but we haven’t played to our full potential.”
Mountain View suffered a pair of 6-1 defeats to rival Los Altos after beating the Eagles in a non-league match last year. But the Spartans had ample experience in 2009. Behind nine seniors, Mountain View won the division and shocked St. Francis in the opening round of the CCS playoffs.
This year’s squad has not only endured growing pains, but aches and pains as well.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries,” said the team’s 10th-year coach.
Top singles player Eric Lee suffered an abdominal strain in the fourth match of the season, according to Smyth. The sophomore missed the next two weeks of the season and has been in and out of the lineup ever since because of the nagging injury. Smyth said Lee has “pretty sound strokes and a good forehand and backhand.”
No. 2 player Blake Thiessen, a junior, has been on varsity since his freshman year and is enjoying his most successful season.
“He’s playing the best and is the most fun to watch,” Smyth said. “He moves well and has a great one-handed backhand.”
Freshmen occupy the remaining singles slots. Conner Stearns plays No. 3 and Eddy Ahn is at No. 4. Stearns “has a pretty steady game,” Smyth said, while Ahn “has a good forehand.”
Seniors Jake Parker and Garrett Nano anchor the doubles ladder. Nano is in his fourth season on varsity and Parker his second.
“They’ve done pretty well,” Smyth said. “I thought they had a chance to dominate at No. 1 doubles, but there were some surprises along the way.”
Sophomore Daniel Lau is locked in at No. 2 doubles, but his partners change constantly.
“He’s having a good season, and I’m happy for him,” Smyth said of Lau, who teams with Peter Li, Michael Romeo or Danny Strom, all juniors. “He was cut as a freshman and sophomore but didn’t give up on tennis. He spent a lot of time practicing and taking lessons, and it paid off.”
Li, Romeo and Strom have seen action at No. 3 doubles as well, along with seniors John Sarhadi and Jeffery Tarrasch.
Parker-Nano sport the team’s best doubles record (above .500), and Smyth believes they have the best shot at representing Mountain View at the CCS Individual Tournament. Getting there requires winning the SCVAL El Camino Division Individual Tournament, scheduled to conclude 1-5 p.m. today at Mountain View.