● Go to PASportsOnline.com for the best local sports coverage.
Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions.
By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Andrew Carlisle was hoping for just one Central Coast Section title. Instead, he'll graduate from Menlo School with three of them and the possibility of three Northern California titles, as well.
Carlisle, along with fellow seniors Kyle Sum and Mac Osborne, the latter two each played doubles, helped the Knights win their third straight CCS boys' team tennis title Friday.
Menlo downed Bellarmine, 7-0, at the Courtside Club in Los Gatos, its third win over the Bells on the season. They could very well meet again in the finals of the Northern California tournament next weekend near Sacramento.
The victory gives Menlo (25-1) a CCS-record 10 team titles, breaking a tie with Gunn and cementing its reputation as a tennis powerhouse. The Knights won all four of their playoff matches by 7-0 scores. That last team to win a 7-0 finale was Monta Vista in 2001, when the Matadors won the Division I crown by toppling Bellarmine.
Carlisle had his doubts of ever winning a title when the Knights lost in the CCS semifinals when he was a freshman.
"My goal was to win one. We just seemed to improve every year," Carlisle said. "My sophomore year we won and my junior year was just magical, going unbeaten and winning the national invitational. I wanted to repeat the unbeaten season but we lost some close games to University (at this year's national invitational). It's rough to finish second but I guess I can't be too disappointed."
Carlisle, who will be given an opportunity to make the team at San Diego next year, proved valuable to the Knights in ways that go unnoticed to the casual observer.
"I remember what he said when we lost the semifinal," Menlo School coach Bill Shine said. "He said 'I'm going to work so hard so that I'm not going to feel like this again.' He cares so much about his teammates. I think he plays better for a team than he does in individual tournaments."
Carlisle's 6-1, 6-2 victory over Kunal Wadwani at No. 4 singles gave Menlo a 3-0 lead. A few minutes later, Richard Pham made it official at No. 3 singles, beating Rohan Shankah, 6-2, 6-0.
"He's our leader," Pham said of Carlisle. "He gets us fired up. He's the one guy everybody on this team looks to for leadership."
Carlisle shrugs it off.
"My role was pretty easy," he said. "Even the freshmen have a lot of tournament experience. I hardly have to talk at all. But it was our last CCS match and I wanted a lot of energy. We'll celebrate this weekend and then get back out there and focus on NorCals."
Like last year, the match ended on Court 1 with yet another Ball playing for Menlo. This time, though, there were no dramatics. The final match last year meant the difference between losing the title and winning. Jamin Ball, now a freshman playing tennis at Stanford, won it.
Sophomore Andrew Ball battled Bellarmine junior Trevor James for over two hours before Ball coaxed a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory, sparking the official team celebration and dropping the Bells to 20-4 this season.
Ball saved six break points just to win his first two games. That's when things really got interesting. He was battling himself as much as he was James and still finding ways to score.
"That's what he's about and what this team is about," Shine said. "They have different ways to win. I told Stanford this is the guy they want. He's so talented now and he's only going to get better. He's just a tremendous athlete."
A pair of doubles teams quickly put Menlo ahead. Sophomore Daniel Morkovine and freshman JT Nishimura won their match, 6-1, 6-2 and sophomore Michael Hoffman and Osborne followed closely behind, winning 6-2, 6-1.
The Knights added some icing when Justin Chan needed a tiebreaker to beat Garrett Taylor, 6-3, 6-7, 10-5, at No. 2 singles and Sum and freshman David Ball won their doubles match, 6-2, 6-2.
"I definitely want to see where these guys go," Carlisle said. "They are so talented, they're top national players, and they work so hard. I can't wait to see how good these guys will be next year."