It was feast or famine for the Peninsula Athletic League in the first round of the Central Coast Section team tournament.
Aragon, the PAL team tournament winner, cruised past Westmont without dropping a set. Carlmont also dominated with a 7-0 win over Alvarez. San Mateo, meanwhile, despite a strong effort, was downed by Palo Alto 6-1.
“The matches were even,” said San Mateo head coach John Daquioag. “Palo Alto was the better team.”
At first glance, a 6-1 loss looks like a rout, but San Mateo (11-6 overall) certainly made Palo Alto (14-6) work for the win. And if a few points went the other way, it may have been the Bearcats moving on to the second round.
Take the No. 1 singles match, for example. San Mateo’s Nick Chu was up 5-2 in the first set, but Palo Alto’s Tony Georgianis won four games in a row to take a 6-5 lead. Chu tied the set at 6-all to force a tiebreak, but it was Georgianis who came out on top. He then rolled past Chu in the second set, 6-2.
It was a similar story at the other spots. The Bearcats had set leads, but just could not close out the Vikings. Both of San Mateo’s top two doubles teams, Prashanth Rajan and Dylan Higashona at No. 1 and the No. 2 team of Kevin Zhang and Andre Khmelnitsky, after dropping their first sets, had leads in the second sets, but could not force the matches to a third.
“Our mental toughness wasn’t there today,” Daquioag said. “We just couldn’t close out sets.”
The Bearcats’ lone win came at No. 3 doubles, where Coy Chilton and Ilan Tennenhouse rallied from a set down to win the match in a third-set, super tiebreaker.
Considering the pair didn’t enter the starting lineup until the end of the season, Daquioag was proud to see the senior pair earn the win for San Mateo.
Chilton and Tennenhouse quickly fell behind 4-1 in the first set, but eventually tied it at 6-all before falling in the tiebreaker. They recovered, however, and went on to record the win.
“I’m proud of the team,” Daquioag said. “They wanted to make CCS. This was just icing on the cake.”
While San Mateo’s season came to an end, Aragon (16-3) extended its season by at least one more match as the Dons dominated Westmont (11-7) out of Campbell. The Dons did not drop a set as all seven matches were finished in less than 90 minutes.
Aragon’s No. 2 and No. 3 singles players, Daniel Duan and Ilan Leventhal, along with the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams — Rithik Booreddy and Richard Tang, and Sean Hsu and Ryan Firestone — were especially strong as they all lost only one game each.
“It’s nice to get the win,” said Tang, a senior captain and a four-year varsity player for the Dons. “I always have confidence in my team. We have good players up and down the lineup.”
Randy Liu, playing at No. 4 singles, had the toughest match of the day, needing to win a first-set tiebreaker 7-5 to win the opening set before finishing off the straight-set win with a 6-3 decision in the second set.
Up next for the Dons is a meeting with fourth-seeded St. Ignatius (15-5) at 3 p.m. Friday at San Francisco State. It was the Wildcats who knocked Aragon out in the second round three years ago on their way to the first of their back-to-back CCS titles.
St. Ignatius finished in a second-place tie with St. Francis in the West Catholic Athletic League standings and remain one of the top teams in the section.
“S.I. — they’re a tough team,” Tang said. “But I believe in our guys.”
Carlmont (9-5) also won their match over the Eagles without dropping a set. The Scots’ top two singles players, junior Milad Shafaie and freshman Daniel Arakaki, both won their matches at love. Chris Cho, at No. 3 singles, lost only one game, while Siddharth Srinivasan lost only one game in each set.
Ryan Franaszek battled through illness and teamed with Derek Tao to win their No. 3 doubles match in straight sets.
Up next for the Scots is a match with a familiar opponent — No. 6 seed Menlo-Atherton (15-2), at 3 p.m. Friday in Atherton. The Bears capture their 11th straight PAL Bay Division title this past season, and swept both matches from Carlmont this season.
The other second-round match featuring a county team has top-seeded Menlo School (19-2) hosting either Aptos (14-1) or WBAL rival Harker (10-2) at 3 p.m. Friday.