Just as they did as a team, the individual members of the Menlo-Atherton girls’ tennis proved to be unbeatable in Peninsula Athletic League play.
After the Bears capture the PAL Bay Division team title, they added a pair of titles and a third-place finish on the final day the PAL individual tournament at San Mateo.
The only reason M-A didn’t win all four matches Thursday is because the Bears did not qualify a doubles team for the third-place doubles match.
Instead they will have to settle for the singles and doubles championship, along with a third-place finish in singles.
“We wanted this,” said Sarah Marks, who teamed with Lila Motamedi to win the doubles championship.
The star of the show, however, was M-A’s Ava Martin. Only a freshman, Martin was slotted into the No. 2 singles spot for the Bears this season and she showed Thursday she will be a force to be reckoned with for the next three seasons as the tournament’s top seed dismantled No. 2 Annika Lin of Carlmont, 6-1, 6-1.
“I played pretty well. I did a good job of staying aggressive,” Martin said. “Annika played really well.”
But Martin played just a little bit better. She used punishing groundstrokes to keep Lin on the run and pinned on the baseline. And when needed, her dexterity around the court kept her in points Lin otherwise would have put away.
“Her forehand is amazing,” Lin said, who served as the Scots’ No. 1 singles since her freshman year. “I think I played pretty good tennis. … I went for my shots. I just let it all hang loose.
“I tried all kinds of shots. I gave it all I had.”
Martin showed an all-around court game that will make it hard for anyone in the PAL to beat her. She hit forehand winners Lin simply could not catch up to and cross-court shots that found the corners.
She was equally adept at the net, at one point volleying a backhand slice passing shot.
After staying on serve the first three games, Martin got her first break in the fourth game when Lin hit a slice return into the net. Martin then put Lin on a string on the baseline, running her corner to corner before taking a 4-1 lead. She hit that aforementioned sliced passing shot for a second break and a 5-1, first-set lead and then held serve to win the opening set.
Martin kept up the momentum to start the second set as she broke Lin for the third time in a row, but Lin answered back by breaking Martin for the first time and tying the set at 1-all.
Martin answered right back with a break to take a 2-1 lead, the first of a five-game winning streak to end the match for Martin.
“What I’ve seen all season (from Martin) is a fearlessness with her groundstrokes. She hits one of the flattest shots I’ve ever seen,” said M-A head coach Tom Sorenson. “It’s amazing to see someone hit it that flat and that hard.”
In the doubles final, Aragon’s top-seeded tandem of Jessica Fu and Christina Wu had an early 3-2 lead in the first set, but Marks and Motamedi, the No. 2 seed, held their serve to tie the set at 3-all and then broke the Dons for a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. Aragon got as close as 5-4, but the Bears’ tandem served out the set for a 6-4 win.
The second set started like the first, with Wu and Fu taking an early lead, 4-3, only to see Marks and Motamedi rally with a hold and break to take a 5-4 lead. Marks then served out the match to claim the title.
“More trust,” was the answer Motamedi gave when asked how the pair have grown throughout the season.
“I think we communicate a lot better now,” Marks added.
With the victory, Marks joins older sister, Julia, as a PAL doubles champion. Julia Marks teamed with Lanie Van Linge to win the 2017 title.
Was Marks going to let her older sister know?
“Oh yeah,” the younger Marks replied.
The third-place singles winner was M-A’s Charlie Smith, who spent the regular season as the Bears’ No. 3 singles player. The No. 3 seed in the tournament, Smith took on Victoria Gittoes, the No. 4 seed and Carlmont’s No. 2 singles player during the regular season.
Much like Martin, Smith got an early break in each set and never let Gittoes back into the match as Smith posted a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
The third-place doubles match was the best of the day as the San Mateo duo of Megan Stretch and Grace Wang, the No. 3 seed, rallied from a set down to beat No. 4 seed Maddie and Molly Wachhorst of Burlingame.
The Wachhorst sisters cruised to a 6-2 win in the first set, but Stretch and Wang bludgeoned their opponents into submission with thumping groundstrokes, winning the final two sets for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.