Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Brendan Barrows, Serra’s No. 3 singles player, returns a shot during the Padres’ win over St. Francis Tuesday afternoon.
A year removed from advancing to the Northern California tournament semifinals, Serra is simply battling for seeding respect as the 2014 boys’ tennis season winds down.
Serra scored a 5-2 victory over rival St. Francis Tuesday. With undefeated Bellarmine running away with the West Coast Athletic League title this season, the Padres are hoping to win out through their final three matches to wrap up second place and secure premium seeding in the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Graduating five players from last year’s team, including 2013 WCAL Player of the Year Sean Talmadge, the composition of the 2014 Serra roster is vastly different. At the start of the year, Serra head coach Marcus Charles promoted five players from the junior-varsity ranks — a senior, a junior and three freshmen — to fill the void. And there have been growing pains with the youth movement.
“They’ve been given the tools but it’s going to take them another two years to see it and to be able to handle the pressure,” Charles said. “Also, they’ve got to live up to being champions and having a target on their back.”
With Tuesday’s win, Serra improves to 7-4 in WCAL play and 10-4 overall.
The Padres got two big individual wins over St. Francis from their doubles teams, to which a lot of the J.V. inexperience has funneled. Charles refers to his doubles players as “the rookies.” But they were the difference Tuesday.
Team Ryan, Serra’s No. 3 doubles of Ryan Cao and Ryan Leung, proved the clincher with a win over Arvan Das and Kamron Dhepanah, 6-4, 6-3. Serra No. 2 doubles Ali Jafri and Andrew Olson also prevailed with a win over Max Pace and Ben Lewis, 6-3, 6-3. St. Francis No. 1 doubles Patrick Negerleson and Joe Tripaldi defeated Rohan Kothari and Matthew McNamara 2-6, 7-6, 6-3.
In singles action, Serra No. 1 Matt Campana came from behind to defeat Kyle Pease 6-7, 7-5, 6-3. St. Francis No. 2 Neel Ramachandran downed Gordan Barrows 7-5, 3-6, (10-4). Serra No. 3 Brendon Barrows defeated Matt Liston 6-2, 6-0. Serra No. 4 Eric Dennis defeated Erik Ratta 6-2, 6-2.
The Padres’ singles have been dependable all season long, with Campana and Gordan Barrows running neck-and-neck for Serra’s nominees for WCAL Player of the Year, according to Charles. Campana has already committed to play at St. Mary’s in the fall. And with Gordan Barrows entering Tuesday undefeated in individual play, his loss to Ramachandran was his first of the year.
With three games remaining in the WCAL regular season, Charles is optimistic the Padres can make a run at second place. But they’ve got their work cut out for them, having entered play Tuesday in fourth place behind second-place St. Ignatius and third-place Mitty.
After losing to Valley Christian earlier this season, Serra has a critical rematch with the Warriors next week.
“Valley Christian is a very important match because they got us last week,” Charles said. “So, we have to get them back.”