Thursday marked the end of the second week of the Peninsula Athletic League boys’ tennis season and yet it was already a must-win match for Burlingame when the Panthers hosted Mills.
Without a league win to their credit, the Panthers were in danger of all but falling out of the Bay Division race: Menlo-Atherton is undefeated and second-place Woodside has only one loss and has already beaten Burlingame this season.
The Panthers also dropped a match to rival San Mateo.
“I can’t remember the last time we lost to San Mateo,” said Burlingame coach Bill Smith.
Thursday, however, Burlingame put it all together to record a 5-2 victory over the Vikings.
True to Smith’s philosophy of using strong doubles play to win matches, the Panthers swept all three doubles matches and added wins in two of the four singles matches to notch their first Bay Division win of the season.
Smith said he has 11 or 12 guys who can all vie for the six spots available for the three doubles teams, which can be both good and bad. Ideally, a coach wants to have set lineups, especially in the doubles where chemistry plays such an important role. A coach would also like to see an established hierarchy when it comes to his doubles tandems.
Having 11 or 12 guys in the mix means no one clearly stands out.
On the other hand, it also ratchets up the competition among the team.
“All the doubles guys can beat each other in practice,” Smith said. “Ten to 11 guys who can beat each other. [Thursday] it was good. We won all three doubles.”
And that was without his strongest doubles teams. Because the Panthers’ nominal No. 3 singles player was out, the No. 4 singles player moved up to No. 3 and half of the No. 1 doubles team was placed in the No. 4 singles slot.
In the end, it didn’t matter much as all three doubles duos won their matches in straight sets. Jimmie Zhang and Wilson Yu won 6-1, 6-3 at No. 1 doubles, while Akhil Patel and Michael Resnick won 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 doubles.
The No. 3 doubles team of Alec Bocarius and Chris Hu had a little bit of a harder time, winning their first set over Brian Lee and Greg Ho 7-5, before rolling to a 6-3 victory in the second set.
“[The doubles teams] have a ways to go, but they’re trying to do what I want them to do. We’re getting there.”
The Burlingame singles winners did not have too tough a time in winning their matches, either. Scott Taggart, one of the top players in the PAL, cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 1 singles, while No. 2 singles player Matt Miller was equally impressive, winning his match 6-1, 6-4.
Mills picked up its two wins against Burlingame players who were playing out of position. Jeffrey Liu took the No. 3 singles spot for the Vikings, winning 6-2, 6-0. Alex Ma won at No. 4 singles, 7-5, 6-1.
“On paper, I thought Mills would have us,” Smith said. “They had wins and we didn’t have any.”