Sat10252014

Sports

Making the grade


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Los Altos High senior Anthony Bello competes at No. 1 singles last week against Saratoga. He lost the match in three sets.

The job of boys tennis coach at Los Altos High comes with challenges – the Eagles play in what may be the toughest public school league in the Central Coast Section – but keeping players eligible is not one of them.

“The GPA of the team is over 3.5,” coach Bill Wong said. “We have focused athletes who study hard. They bring their books to the matches.”

They’re making the grade on the court as well. Los Altos entered this week with a 12-3 overall record. That includes an 8-2 mark in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division, which puts the Eagles behind only Monta Vista (10-1) with just a few matches remaining.

Wong said Los Altos “has a chance to win the league,” but the Eagles will need help after falling to Saratoga 4-3 last week.

Los Altos will finish as division co-champs only if Lynbrook upset Monta Vista Tuesday (after the Town Crier’s press deadline) and the Eagles win their final two matches. Los Altos is scheduled to visit Palo Alto 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Cupertino 3:30 p.m. April 22 to make up a match postponed last week due to rain.

Although Los Altos and Monta Vista split their two league matches, Wong has good reason to believe his team is superior.

“I think we are better than Monta Vista,” he said. “We beat them in Fresno (at the season-opening California High School Tennis Classic) and we didn’t have Spencer when we lost to them.”

That would be Spencer Simonides – the Eagles’ No. 2 singles player. The senior recently committed to Pomona College, where teammate and No. 1 player Anthony Bello is headed as well.

Bello and Simonides have been more dominant in doubles – joining forces to win the Central Coast Section doubles championship last season – than in singles.

“They’re very strong doubles players and good student-athletes,” Wong said. “But in singles, they’ve had a tough time against players from Lynbrook, Saratoga and Monta Vista.”

With so many stellar singles players in the league – and the section – the coach may reunite Simonides and Bello in doubles for the individual portion of the playoffs.

“I am thinking of putting them together for CCS; I don’t see them winning singles,” he said. “They want to play, so I’d like to do that.”

Los Altos will first compete in the CCS team tournament. Wong is confident his Eagles can go far in the tourney, scheduled to begin May 1.

“After Menlo, we are in contention (for the title) at full strength,” he said. “I think we can compete.”

Perennial power Menlo is the favorite to win the CCS championship. The Knights – who Wong described as “a definite road block” – have eliminated Los Altos in the quarterfinals the last two years.

Los Altos’ lone loss outside of league this season came at the hands of Menlo at the California High School Tennis Classic. The Eagles bounced back from the semifinal defeat by beating Monta Vista to finish third in the tournament’s top division.

“That’s a great accomplishment,” Wong said. “We were ninth last year, so that’s a big improvement.”

If Los Altos is to excel in the postseason, the coach said the team must get healthy. The Eagles played without three doubles players last week against Saratoga – two were sick and the other injured – and were swept on that side of the ladder.

“Midseason we lost one guy to mono and another guy broke his hand,” Wong said. “We’re hoping to have both of them back for CCS.”

Braden Holt has been the one constant in doubles, playing every match and winning nearly all of them. The junior sports a 13-3 record, tops on the team.

“Braden is very good at volleying and serving,” the coach said. “He’s a strong net player and has a strong overhead.”

Wong also praised Jared Eng and Ovi Fritsch, who rank third and fourth, respectively, on the singles ladder. Junior Eng is 9-8; sophomore Fritsch is 10-6.

“They’ve been very important,” he said.

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