Boys’ tennis defends NorCal Championship
The Menlo School boys’ tennis pulled a reversal, defeating Cupertino 4-3 to defend its USTA-CIF Northern California Championship on Saturday at Broadstone Sports Club in Folsom.
Just a week earlier, the Knights fell to Cupertino in the Central Coast Section, also 4-3 and coming down to several points. Now. Menlo School (22-2) closes its season with a NorCal title, and for the seniors, who did not have NorCals their freshman and sophomore seasons, they have now won both regional titles possible. This is the 15th NorCal title in school history.
At CCS, the final was decided in Cupertino’s favor, and two singles matches were being played which Menlo won.
“That made us hungry. One week won’t change your level of playing,” senior co-captain Tudor Braicu said. “The only way we could improve was our mental game. And we were ready to fight.”
At NorCals playing at the No. 3 spot, Braicu embraced the pressure with both teams lining the court for the deciding match. Braicu and his opponent had already been on the court for 2.5 hours in the heat of the day in Folsom. Both players started cramping, and both took medical timeouts.
“Honestly, it felt awesome. It was a dream come true. Knowing that you’re the deciding match in your last ever match for the tennis team, is what people yearn for,” Braicu said. “As Coach Bill told me multiple times: ‘Embrace the challenge. Pressure is a privilege. You’re athletic. You put in the work. Why not you?’ “
Briacu prevailed, coming back in a third-set tiebreaker leading 2-0 before his opponent tried to fight through but had to retire.
At No. 1 singles, junior Evan Burnett tied the score at three after he came roaring back in the third set of a 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 victory. He actually held a 3-0 lead in the second set.
“My match was pretty crazy,” Burnett said. In the second set, “he started playing much better and my level dropped a bit as well at the end of the set.”
The players took a break and Burnett said he did a complete reset before the third set. “I knew I had to play better if I was going to win, and I knew that I needed to win for the team to win as well. I came out feeling much better and found a great level throughout the whole third set. It was great knowing that the match was still up for grabs when I was playing my third set.”
Earlier, junior Ben Levin teamed with freshman Yuanye Ma for a three-set win at No. 2 while junior Sam Engel and sophomore Kavan Kumar pulled the Knights to within 2-3.
“It was a true team effort,” Menlo coach Bill Shine said. “There were some really long rallies, and these kids persevered and they’re happy they’re bringing the championship back.”
Menlo defeated Oak Ridge in the opening round 6-1, then defeated Mission SJ in the semifinal.
USTA-CIF NorCal Championships
at Broadstone Sports Club, Folsom
Menlo 4, Cupertino 3
Evan Burnett (M) d. Kim 6-1, 5-7, 6-0
Lee (C) d. Cooper Han 6-4, 6-4
Tudor Braicu (M) d. Hathalia 2-6, 7-5, 2-0 ret.
Chung (C) d. Leo Terman 6-1, 6-1
Srikantan-Hase (C) d. Nikhil Agarwal-Arki Temsamani 6-2, 6-4
Yuanye Ma-Ben Levin (M) d. Atre-Parmar 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
Sam Engel-Kavan Kumar (M) d. Medam-Hikida 6-3, 6-0
Pam Tso McKenney