Three weeks into the Peninsula Athletic League boys’ tennis season and it’s clear Menlo-Atherton is the cream of the Bay Division crop. Not only beating teams but whipping them soundly.
While it appears the Bears will clinch the PAL’s lone automatic bid to the Central Coast Section playoffs, the rest of the Bay Division is up in the air and battling for three of the four PAL playoff spots and a chance at the league’s second automatic CCS bid. The fourth spot goes to the Ocean Division champion.
“M-A is a powerhouse at the top, but everyone else is pretty even,” said Aragon coach Dave Owdom.
Owdom’s Dons are one of those teams battling for the top seed in the PAL playoffs at the end of the season. Having only lost to M-A in league play, the Dons appear to be one of the teams to beat.
Mills took its shot at Aragon Thursday in San Mateo and the Dons showed just how strong they are with a 6-1 victory over the Vikings.
“We’re pretty strong at the moment. This is our best lineup,” Owdom said. “We haven’t had our full lineup play together.”
Aragon (5-1 PAL Bay) dominated the doubles matches, sweeping all three with relative ease. The No. 1 tandem of Landers Ngirchemat and Alex Ilyin lost only one game in finishing off their opponents in about 50 minutes, 6-1, 6-0.
“Landers and Alex have played very well,” Owdom said. “Landers is a special doubles player.”
The Dons’ other two doubles teams — Tony Wang and Sameer Jain, and Fabio Gallardo and Raayan Mohtashemi — also won in straight sets, combining to lose only seven games between them.
Mills coach Scott Selig, in his 25th season coaching the Vikings, knew his team would struggle in the doubles matches. He said his singles players are much better than his doubles.
“Aragon’s depth is good all the way through,” Selig said. “We have this group (singles, who are good) and that group (doubles). Our two (PAL) wins have been singles sweeps. We’re competitive in all our singles. We just have to work on our doubles.”
Mills (2-5, 5-6) proved to be a bit tougher in the singles matches, but Aragon proved it is the better team, winning three of the four singles matches.
Isaac Wang, the Dons’ No. 2 singles player, took care of Kevin Reyes, 6-3, 6-2. Mathew Fowler, at No. 4 singles, also won his match in straight sets over Zach Wong, 6-2, 6-2.
Mills’ Jeff Liu put up a fight at No. 3 singles, but Aragon’s Jonathon Liu prevailed in three sets, 6-4, 4-6 and 10-7 in a super tiebreak.
“Our singles players are all pretty even,” Owdom said.
Mills’ lone win came at No. 1 singles, where James Tanjutco topped Devon Hughes, 6-2, 6-4.
Selig believes his team would be in much better shape if not for the last-minute defection of two key players who decided not to come out for the team.
“I would have given us a good shot at getting back to the PAL playoffs (this season). We haven’t been there in quite a few years,” Selig said. “But two seniors, No. 4 and 5 on our ladder, decided not to come out (this season).”
That being said, Selig believes his team can still make a run at a PAL playoff berth if, in the second half of the season, the Vikings can reverse some first-half outcomes.
“We might be able to have a shot if we can turn some of these matches around (in the second half of the season),” Selig said.