Menlo tennis player David Ball had a lot on his plate his senior season. Not only did he serve as the Knights’ No. 1 singles player and team captain, he was also student body president.
As if that weren’t enough, he had immense pressure on the tennis courts. Not only was he trying to help continue the Knights’ dominating performance, he had the added pressure of living up to the family name. Older brothers Jamin and Andrew also served as No. 1 singles players, both earned college scholarships and combined to help the Knights to five straight Central Coast Section and Northern California titles.
David Ball handled it all with aplomb. He lost only one match this season as he helped lead Menlo to a sixth-straight CCS and Nor Cal championship.
For his efforts, Ball is this year’s San Mateo Daily Journal’s Boys’ Tennis Player of the Year.
“This year was a pretty exciting and interesting season. Like always, we have a strong team, but this was one of the few years where we’ve had some ups and downs. We were faced with some injuries, just some bad scheduling where we lost some guys (to injuries),” Ball said. “We ultimately achieved our goal of winning CCS and Nor Cals for the sixth-straight year and that made for a little more excitement.”
It’s no secret the Menlo boys’ tennis team is one of the best in the state, if not the nation. But it’s the work and dedication the Knights put in that allow them to continue to play at such a high level. No matter the opponent, Menlo players take every match seriously. They look at it as an opportunity to raise the level of their game.
“They take pride in that and I think it makes them work harder,” said Menlo coach Bill Shine. “I think they have an advantage. The upperclassmen have taught the younger ones the ‘Menlo Way.’ They take pride in that.”
Ball also took pride in being the team captain and what that entails. Not only was it his job to make sure the rest of the team was ready to play, but also to support the team all the way through matches.
“[Ball is] phenomenal,” Shine said. “He is a huge motivator. He waits until the final match is over. He’s really nice to the freshmen. … He’s like my right-hand man when he’s out there. He’s like an assistant coach.”
Despite his leadership role, Ball is still one of the guys and he credits them for lifting him up when he was at his lowest. He lost his only match of the year at the National Invitational Tournament in Newport Beach, where a win would have sent the Knights into the championship match.
Instead, his loss dropped the Knights into a tie in their semifinal match and they were relegated to the third-place match after losing a tiebreaker. Ball credits his teammates for lifting his spirits and getting the team back on track.
The Knights ended up winning the third-place match.
“Being my senior year, it would have been easy to roll over and say we lost a really tough match, but the guys totally bounced back. Everyone came out (for that third-place match) really fired up. I think we played one of our best matches of the season. That was kind of a defining moment about how hard we had to work,” Ball said. “I have to give credit to the guys for picking me up. I was able to realize there was still work to be done. I had a long talk with the guys, saying this is what Menlo tennis is all about. The most important thing was all the guys rallied around me when I was really down.”
When the postseason rolled around, Ball and the Knights picked up their play. In CCS, the Knights had a tough time in the quarterfinals, outlasting Palo Alto 4-3. But in the semifinals and finals, they dropped a total of two matches.
It was more of the same in Nor Cal play. In three matches, they posted a pair of 7-0 wins before handily beating Dougherty Valley-Dublin in the finals, 5-2.
Ball, obviously, played in big role in the Knights’ postseason success.
“He’s very poised, very businesslike. Doesn’t get too high or too low,” Shine said. “He’s really matured a lot and he’s grown a lot — both physically and mentally. When he was younger, he would let little things bother him.”
Having followed his older brothers’ path through Menlo, he is now following in Jamin’s and Andrew’s footsteps in college. Jamin Ball wrapped up a four-year career at Stanford, while Andrew Ball just finished up his freshman season at Harvard. David Ball will be playing at BYU next season on a tennis scholarship and his hope is to crack the starting lineup as a freshman.
“BYU has a great team. I’m hoping to go in there and sneak into the singles lineup and start as a freshman,” Ball said. “There are a lot of good players over there. I’m just hoping to get some experience and play as a Division I athlete.
“It’s kind of a dream come true.”