by Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
In his 10 years as either head or co-coach of the Menlo-Atherton boys' tennis team, Carlos Aguilar has enjoyed levels of success -- from winning PAL Bay Division titles to reaching the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Last season, for example, the Bears went 14-0 to win the Bay Division title and advanced to the CCS quarterfinals before falling and finishing 17-5. M-A has reached the postseason six times since 2001 and is headed there again.
"The players are so motivated for CCS!" Aguilar said.
Should the Bears finished off a perfect league season this week, they'll be 26-0 in the PAL over back-to-back seasons.
However, it's hard to compare what M-A has done recently with the success enjoyed by programs like Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep. Those teams have won CCS, NorCal and even unofficial national titles.
Thus, Menlo-Atherton's success has to be measured differently. Based on record alone, this is best team that Aguilar and co-coach Tom Sorenson have had in the past 10 years. The Bears are 15-0 after topping visiting Sacred Heart Prep on Monday, 5-2, in a nonleague match.
Beating SHP (9-8) was an important yardstick for M-A because Palo Alto, Gunn and Menlo all have done it this season -- giving the Bears a level of expectation.
"They know what they are capable of, although other than the four seniors we are all sophs and freshmen," Aguilar said. "So, our youth and experience shows. But, if we're hitting on all cylinders, we are awfully tough. Maybe not Menlo tough, but very tough against anyone else!"
M-A was pretty tough on Monday. Zeke Brown and Matt Giordano posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory at No. 1 doubles, twins Jesse and Christian Perkins produced a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 2 and Matt Menninger teamed with Richie Sarwall at No. 3 for a 6-2, 6-2 victory. Alec Haley and Alden Mitchell also won in straight sets at the top of the singles ladder.
Weather allowing, the Bears will be back on the court Tuesday at Woodside with a chance of clinching a second straight PAL Bay Division regular-season title. M-A is 10-0 in league with a two-match lead over Burlingame with just two to play. The Bears, after visiting Gunn on Wednesday for a nonleague match, will close the regular season on Thursday by hosting Half Moon Bay.
It's possible that Menlo-Atherton could be 18-0 by the end of the week, depending on the weather and perhaps the outcome of the Gunn match. Even the Bears of 1985, who won the school's only CCS team championship in the sport, likely didn't have such a glossy record.
Speaking of records, the Bears didn't face local rivals Menlo or Palo Alto this season. They also had a match with St. Francis rained out twice and Aptos cancelled its scheduled trip to Atherton. The Bears might have been tested by the Lancers but would have been favored against Aptos.
Bottom line, however, Menlo-Atherton has beaten everyone it has faced -- no matter what the level of competition. Like other teams, the Bears have battled through illness and injury and juggled lineups while still finding a way to win. That in itself says a lot about this year's team that features three seniors among singles (Haley, Mitchell and Avinash Shah) plus two all-sophomore doubles teams (Giordano and Brown plus the Perkins twins).
It's a lineup that Aguilar says is his most versatile yet with plenty of interchangeable parts -- all of which have worked well together this season.
With senior Dalan Refioglu earning co-medalist honors with a 1-under-par 35, Sacred Heart Prep shot its lowest team score of the season while remaining undefeated with a 189-209 victory over Harker in a West Bay Athletic League dual match at Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club on Monday.
The Gators (7-0, 9-0) also got fine rounds of even-par 36 from brothers Jeff and Kevin Knox while Andrew Vetter checked in with a 40 and Anthony Tran a 42. Harker freshman Maverick McNealy led his team with a 35.
In another WBAL match, Menlo had four players shoot in the 30s and easily defeated Pinewood, 199-227, on Monday at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club. Junior MJ Cootsona led the Knights with a 1-over 36 while junior Patrick Grimes shot 37 with Andrew Buchanan and Bobby Pender both adding 39s. Pinewood senior Audrey Proulx led her team with a 40 on the overcast and windy day in the foothills. The Panthers finished their season 4-6.
Palo Alto played its first game since returning from spring break, and the Vikings displayed a little rustiness while registering a 5-2 nonleague victory over visiting Evergreen Valley on Monday. Paly (13-4) had to rally from a 2-0 deficit to pull out the victory.
The Vikings began their comeback with a run in the bottom of the fourth when Lauren Bucolo doubled, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on single by winning pitcher Kelly Jenks (12-4). Paly took the lead for good in the fifth with four runs. The Vikings loaded the bases for Bucolo, who doubled down the left-field line for two runs. Caroline McDonnell's groundout made it 4-2 and Jenks provided the final run with another single.
Palo Alto will put its 2-1 record in SCVAL De Anza Division play on the line Wednesday against visiting Fremont in a battle for first place. The Vikings then will visit Los Gatos on Thursday in a makeup game.