NorCal: Girls’ tennis (23-6) has ‘unwavering grit’ in final
11.20.21 - The Menlo girls’ tennis team advanced to the NorCal Championship for the fourth time in seven seasons, and showed “unwavering grit” in a 5-2 loss to Harker on Saturday at Broadstone Racquet Club in Folsom.
The Knights wrapped up the season with a remarkable 23-6 record, a trip to the NorCal and CCS championships matches. Menlo sailed through the Battle of the Bay Classic beating Santa Barbara, Miramonte and St. Francis-Sacramento.
It was a hard-fought NorCal final, meeting Harker for the fourth time this season. The teams started play at 1 and 2.5 hours later, the Knights were still fighting for an upset of the top seed. Freshman Andra Braicu rose to win at No.2 singles Menlo’s No. 3 doubles team of senior Alex Viret and freshman Izzy Klugman went undefeated this season. Menlo was down 3-2, but still had two matches going to tie-breaker. No. 4 singles junior Charlotte Yao went to a third-set tiebreaker, and the No..2 doubles team of senior captain Brynn Brady and junior Charlotte Makoni were battling in a seven-point tiebreaker.
“I think with each match, the team played better and better. We knew that the matches were going to be pretty tough so everyone tried to stay focus on the current match instead of looking too much into the future. When we got to the finals and were playing Harker again, I think it could have been very easy for us to go into the match without a lot of confidence because we had lost to them the previous times this season. But I am so proud of the team because everyone went into the finals determined and with a lot of fight and belief that we could win,” Senior tri-captain Tricia Zhang said. “I think we all played our best match of the season, and everyone stayed composed and fought until the very end.”
Zhang at No. 1 as well as senior captain C.C. Golub and junior Natalie Westermann at No.1 doubles and No, 3 singles Sofia Labatt fell after matches marked by long rallies.
Up and down the lineup, without exception, the Knights played their best matches.
“The girls kept at it and never let up. What I think the highest accomplishment of the season was this past weekend - it’s not because we got all the way to the finals or anything like that,” said Menlo coach Bill Shine, who also led the Knights girls to NorCal titles in 2019, 2015 and 2014. “The reason I say this is because - I think the girls expected that they would get to the finals - it was the unwavering grit that the girls mentally achieved going into the match. We got beat three times already this season by Harker and to go into the match without letting up was remarkable. The seniors had a lot to do with that - (captains Tricia, Brynn and CC, plus Alex, Rupal and Elizabeth) - that mindset going in and carrying through the entire match.
“I think this is one of the few times when every match on seven courts, everyone was playing their absolute best. That doesn’t happen a lot. Because of that, they almost pulled it off.”
The Knights defeated Chico 6-1 in the opening round, and beat Amador Valley 7-0 to advance to the final.
“Looking back, this season and the past four years went by so quickly and I am really sad that it’s over,” Zhang said. “I’m so proud of the team, how much we improved and everything we accomplished.”
Harker 5, Menlo 2
Natasha Rajoram (H) d. Tricia Zhang 6-3, 6-4; Andra Braicu (M) d. Sophie Hernandez 6-4, 6-4; Emily Novikov (H) d. Sofia Labatt 6-0, 6-1; Sara Wan (H) d. Charlotte Yao 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7). Doubles – Rachel Hernandez-Olivia Guo (H) d. Natalie Westermann-C.C. Golub 6-4, 6-3; Audrey F-Anstra (H) d. Brynn Brady-Charlotte Makoni 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7); Alex Viret-Izzy Klugman (M) d. Anika Rama- Anishka Arun 6-2, 6-1