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Menlo boys capture third straight NorCal tennis title

 

It was a weekend of celebrations for the Menlo School boys' tennis team. Head coach Bill Shine celebrated his 57th birthday on Saturday and assistant coach David Wermuth turned 32 on Sunday.

While there was no cake and candles for the coaches, they got something even better as the Knights claimed their third straight CIF-USTA NorCal Championship with a 6-1 victory over Monte Vista (Danville) on Saturday at the Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento.

"They won on my birthday," said Shine. "It was a great present. And David Wermuth had his birthday Sunday. The boys wrote up a nice card for David and myself, so it was nice . . . it was a perfect weekend."

The triumph on Saturday afternoon, which came on the heels of a 7-0 win over Piedmont on the semifinals earlier in the day, wrapped up a 28-1 season for the Knights and provided Shine with a bit of history as Menlo as his team won three straight Central Coast Section and NorCal titles for the first time in the same season.

During this three-year stretch, Menlo has gone a remarkable 82-3 while producing its best record ever (27-0 last year) and the most single-season victories in school history (28 this year).

Shine, meanwhile, improved to 351-41 in his 15th season, winning his 10th CCS title this season and eighth NorCal crown. No other tennis team in Northern California can boast such totals.

Shine had no idea that this season would be so good, even though "I was hoping it would," he said. "As the season went along, I thought this could be a really, really dangerous team. I was pleasantly surprised on how easily we beat some good teams this year."

During Menlo's 4-0 sweep of its CCS foes and 3-0 effort at NorCals, the Knights won six of the matches by 7-0 scores and lost only their first point in Saturday's finale as junior Justin Chan fell at No. 2 singles, 6-3, 6-4. Other than that, Menlo was perfect in the postseason.

"Even though we're young, the guys thrive on competition," Shine said.

The Knights put their competitive shoes on following Saturday's semifinals, which saw CCS runnerup Bellarmine fall to Monte Vista, 4-3.

"I was kind of rooting for Monte Vista," Shine admitted, :"so the guy would have somone new to play. If it was Bellarmine, it would have been, ho-hum, Bellarmine for a fourth time."

The Knights beat the Bells twice during the regular season and again in the CCS finals, 7-0. Thus, having a new opponent in the NorCal finals got the Knights' in a better competitive frame of mind.

While the 6-1 score seemed lopsided, five of the seven matches were competitive.

"Monte Vistas was tough," said Shine, who made a slight adjustment in his lineup by moving senior Andrew Carlisle from No. 4 singles to No. 1 doubles (to team with freshman J.T. Nishimura) and moving sophomore Daniel Morkovine from doubles to No. 4 singles.

The move paid off as Morkovine won, 6-0, 6-1, while Carlisle and Nishimura battled for a 7-5, 6-4 triumph. Menlo sophomore Andrew Ball won an important No. 1 singles match against Monte Vista senior Sean Chaudhuri, 6-0, 4-6, 10-8. Chaudhuri is ranked among the top Boys' 18s singles players in Northern California, according to Shine.

"I thought that was his (Ball's) best match of the year," Shine said.

Sophomore Richard Pham won at No. 3 singles, 6-0, 6-1, while the No. 2 doubles tandem of senior Kyle Sum and freshman David Ball won, 6-4, 6-0, while senior Mac Osborne and sophomore Michael Hoffman produced a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 3 doubles.

Shine credited Wermuth, the 1997 CCS singles champ from Palo Alto High, with Menlo's improvement this season. In his sixth season with the Knights, Wermuth whipped the team into great shape.

"He's instilled a physical toughness," Shine said. "Before, we were really, really good. Now, we're really, really great. A lot of the credit goes to him."

Wermuth will be working with many of the same players next season as the Knights lose only Carlisle, Sum and Osborne. The Knights return their top three singles players -- Andrew Ball, Chan and Pham -- along with Nishimura, David Ball, Morkovine and Hoffman.

If Menlo needed any motivation for next season, improving upon a one-loss season is of course there, along with the opportunity to win four straight CCS and NorCal titles for the first time ever.

Right now, however, Shine will enjoy this week's CCS Singles and Doubles Tournament at Imperial Courts in Aptos. Carlisle and Nishimura are seeded No. 1 in doubles while Osborne and Hoffman are No. 4. Action gets under way Tuesday and wraps up Thursday.

"I'll just sit back and enjoy it," Shine said.

Also competing in doubles will be a pair of Menlo-Atherton tandems, junior twins Jesse and Christian Perkins plus Matt Giordano and Zeke Brown. Should both teams advance past their first-round matches, they'll meet in Tuesday's quarterfinals.

Menlo's two teams, meanwhile, are in the upper bracket and could meet in the semifinals on Thursday.

— Keith Peters/Palo Alto Online Sports

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