It was a week that had pretty much everything for the Menlo School boys' tennis team, from rain at home to snow while traveling to an 8-0 victory over Central Coast Section rival Bellarmine. Only one thing was missing, however, and that was a team championship at the 12th annual National High School All-American Boys Invitational Team Tournament.
The Knights missed out on defending their tourney championship after falling to University of Irvine, 7-1, on Saturday at the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach.
"We played exceptional tennis," said Menlo coach Bill Shine, whose team was seeded No. 1 after winning last season. "We had our shots. When you play an eight-point pro set and you get a couple of breaks, you have to capitalize on them. We didn't. We just got beat by a better team."
The championship was a rematch of last year's final, which Menlo won by a 5-3 score. This time, the Knights had to settle for a 3-1 record. They opened with an 8-0 win over Christ Church of South Carolina, followed that with an 8-0 win over past champion Peninsula High of Rolling Hills, and then blanked Bellarmine, 8-0.
Andrew Ball, Justin Chan and Richard Pham won the first three singles matches by 8-2 scores against the Bells. Andrew Carlisle won at No. 4 by 8-5 and freshman J.T. Nishimura captured his No. 5 singles match, 8-6.
Ball and Pham won at No. 1 doubles, 8-6, while the tandems of Chan-Carlisle and Nishimura and Daniel Morkovine produced 8-0 victories. That set up the rematch with University, where only Chan was able to win (8-2) at No. 2 singles. Five other matches were decided by 8-6 scores and two others by 8-5 scores.
"The scores were close," Shine said, "just not in our favor."
Ball, Pham and Chan all were named to the all-tournament team. Chan finished 7-1 in singles and doubles while Ball and Pham were 6-2.
"The two best teams were clearly University and Menlo," Shine said. "No ifs, ands or buts. It was really good tennis."
Added University coach John Kessler: "It is amazing. We worked hard, and they are a great team, so I definitely wasn't expecting 7-1 for sure. Our guys are just tough. They pulled out all the tough points. A lot of the sets could have gone either way. It was great junior tennis."
University sophomore Gage Brymer, the 20th ranked player in the nation, won all four of his matches on Saturday -- beating Ball, 8-6, in singles during the championship match. Ball broke Brymer's serve twice, and took a 5-3 lead, but Brymer won five on the next six games to close out the match.
Menlo now has beaten CCS rivals Saratoga and Bellarmine this season.
"It's clearly Menlo, Saratoga and Bellarmine (in the CCS) this season," Shine said. "I don't even know who the No. 4 team would be."
The Knights will host both Bellarmine (April 1) and Saratoga (April 13) in nonleague dual matches as a final tuneup before Menlo defends its CCS team title beginning May 6.
Sacred Heart Prep concluded a successful weekend road trip by handing host Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills a 16-6 nonleague loss on Saturday in the Sacramento area.
The Gators were led by Julia Keller's five goals and four assists while Kendall Cody added four goals and three assists as SHP improved to 5-1. Isabelle Thompson, Melissa Holland and Caroline Cummings all added two goals while goalie Emily Westerfield had seven saves.
Getting six goals and three assists from Madison Sabbag, Gunn swamped host Harker, 22-2, in a nonleague match on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Katie-Rose Skelly added three goals and two assists while Nora Shevick had three goals and one assist for the Titans (2-3), who had nine players score. Samantha Donat also had three goals for the winners.