It should have been an exciting time for members of the Menlo School boys' tennis team, when they wrapped up the program's sixth Northern California championship on Saturday with a 7-0 victory over Bellarmine. However, it was anything but that.
"I apologized to my players for the effort of the Bellarmine players," said Menlo coach Bill Shine. "They didn't get the respect or the high from winning NorCals that they deserved. We knew it was over after the first game. It was disrespectful to the sport."
Shine and his players went into the NorCal Tournament at the Diamond Hills Sports Club in Oakley expecting to face Bellarmine in a rematch of their Central Coast Section title match, which the Knights won 4-3 after racing to a 4-0 lead. The NorCal finale, however, wasn't even close.
More than one Bellarmine player decided, instead, to compete in the Spare Time Memorial Day Junior Excellence tournament in Roseville. That group included the Bells' top player, Eric Johnson. Doubles player Steven Chung also was missing, although he was not listed to play in Roseville. Four Menlo players – Daniel Hoffman, Jamin Ball, Max Glenn and Justin Chan – also were slated to play in the same event.
The Menlo players, however, contacted officials at the junior tournament and explained their situation with NorCals, and had their matches on Saturday scheduled after 6:30 p.m. All four Menlo players competed in their two NorCal matches Saturday before heading off to Roseville, where all four won again. The Bellarmine players made no such plans with the junior event and weren't on hand to face Menlo.
"Without those guys, they're a completely different team," Shine said of the missing Bells. "To be completely honest about it, they (the Bells) didn't give it their best effort; they rolled over."
Ball, a junior playing No. 2 singles for Menlo, raced to a 5-0 lead before asking Shine what was going on.
"None of them were trying," Shine explained of the Bellarmine players.
To make matters worse, Shine said Bellarmine coach Reno Davenport told him that his missing players were at graduation ceremonies. That wasn't necessarily the case, however, because Johnson is a sophomore and had his junior tourney results posted at www.norcal.usta.com for all to see. Bellarmine's graduation was Saturday at 10 a.m., but senior Alex Wall was the team's only starter who was graduating.
Without Johnson in the singles lineup, the Bells were no match for Menlo. Davenport even brought up a JV player to compete at No. 4 singles, but Davenport didn't even know his own player's name when the lineups were announced.
"That was embarrassing for the player," Shine said.
Hoffman led the way at No. 1 singles with a 6-3, 6-0 thumping of Ian Clark at No. 1 singles. Ball whipped Michael Chang at No. 2 singles, 6-0, 6-1. Glenn topped Garrett Taylor 6-3, 6-3, at No. 3 and Patrick Chase handed the poor JV player a 6-1, 6-1 beating.
In doubles, Menlo sophomore Andrew Carlisle and freshman Justin Chan produced a 6-1, 6-0 victory over the same Bellarmine doubles duo that had won at CCS in three sets. Menlo's Ryan Duggal and Kyle Sum won at No. 2, 6-4, 6-1; and the Knights' Jonathan Katzman and Brian Peltz breezed to a 6-0, 6-1 triumph at No. 3 doubles.
"It was pretty disappointing," Shine said of the final match. "The semifinals were great (a 7-0 win over Monte Vista-Danville). The matches were close and the energy was there. I said to myself it was going to be a great day. Lo and behold, that (the semis) was the finals."
Menlo finished the season 27-2, registering the most victories in school history.
"We played really well in the semifinals," Shine said. "Afterward I said there's no way we're going to lose today . . . It was a coach's dream to have that kind of effort to finish the season."