Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Aragon’s Jason Zhao finished strong as he and No. 2 doubles partner Patrick Tse clinched the Dons’ win in the PAL boys’ team tennis tournament championship Thursday at Carlmont.
After losing to Carlmont twice during the regular season, the Aragon boys’ tennis team came through when it counted.
The Dons captured the Peninsula Athletic League boys’ team tennis tournament championship by virtue of a 5-2 victory Thursday at Carlmont. Despite a lineup shakeup at No. 1 doubles, Aragon swept through doubles play, persevering the win with three-set victories at both No. 2 and No. 3 doubles.
With the title comes the second of the PAL’s two automatic berths to the Central Coast Section team championships, slated to begin May 3. Menlo-Atherton won the regular-season PAL Bay Division title to earn the first bid. Aragon, the winner of the four-team PAL tourney, receives the other.
Carlmont’s fate is now in the hands of the CCS seeding committee. The Scots could still earn an at-large bid to the CCS playoffs, as they did last season.
“We got in last year with less,” Carlmont head coach Dan Nguyen said. “We got in last year with the worst record. So we’ll see. It’s all up to the tennis gods now.”
One of Aragon’s No. 1 doubles players didn’t play in the match. So, Dons head coach Dave Owdom had to shake things up, moving his No. 4 singles player David Wu up to No. 1 doubles to pair with Richard Tang. The two set the tone for the doubles sweep, cruising to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Carlmont’s Kevin Xiang and Jon Li.
Both Aragon’s other doubles teams got off to hot starts with first-set wins. But after Wu and Tang wrapped up their quick win, Carlmont seemed to gain a synergy on the neighboring doubles courts. But Aragon No. 2 doubles Jason Zhao and Patrick Tse ultimately clinched the match with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win over Carlmont’s Jerry Liu and Jason Liu.
“Usually we take a while to warm up,” said Tse, who has partnered with Zhao all season. “But it was the other way around today.”
Aragon No. 3 doubles Cameron Swiecki and Nick Hudson also persevered in three sets, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 over Carlmont’s Edward Zhou and Thomas Morey. The match ended just moments after Tse and Zhao scored the title-clinching win. With the Dons commanding big third-set leads on both courts though, there was not a lot of distraction for the focused Dons.
“Both of the wins were really close,” Zhao said. “So, I just tried to keep my cool and keep my focus on playing that set.”
While the Dons didn’t show any emotion upon clinching the match, it was still a moment to revel in, according to Tse.
“It was actually a big moment for me,” Tse said. “I haven’t been consistent this year. Today was my best game of the season. So I was proud of my performance. I was proud of both of us.”
Aragon’s triumph on the No. 4 singles court set the stage for the big finish at doubles. With Wu moving to No. 1 doubles, Aragon turned to Jordan Chall at No. 4 singles. Chall has platooned with Wu at No. 4 this year, but Wu would have gotten the call had Aragon been playing with its full roster.
Chall scored a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 win over Carlmont’s Ben Barde. In the early going of the decisive third set, though, Barde jumped out to a 2-1 lead after breaking Chall’s serve. Actually, Chall essentially broke his own serve, double faulting three times. But Chall rallied back to win three straight games before putting it away to put Aragon up 3-2 on the day.
“[Chall’s] biggest opponent is himself,” Owdom said. “His biggest issue is mental toughness and today he had it. It was a clutch win.”
Watching the loss was a helpless feeling for Carlmont’s top two singles players, Thomas Reznik and Milad Shafaie. Both made quick work of their opponents, with their matches being the first two completed. Reznik defeated Aragon’s Daniel Li 6-1, 6-1; and Shafaie defeated Rithik Booreddy 6-3, 6-2.
Both Reznik and Shafaie were invested in the team outcome even before their matches ended. Shafaie demonstrated this at match point, ripping a forehand from the backline and, before it even landed on the other side to wrap up his win, Shafaie was already yelling: “Let’s go Scots! Rally! Let’s go!”
“The first set I was focused on my match,” Reznik said. “But by the second set, I was more focused on the matches next to mine to try and pump them up.”
Carlmont defeated Aragon twice during the regular season, first by a score of 4-3, then 5-2 in the second round. In the opening round of the PAL tournament Wednesday, the Scots defeated PAL Ocean Division champion Capuchino 7-0, while Aragon defeated Burlingame 5-2.