Dominating the nine singles matches to the tune of 8-1, the Torrey Pines boys tennis team stormed past Avocado West League rival Canyon Crest, 14-4, in Friday’s final to win its fifth consecutive CIF Open Division Championship Friday at Balboa Tennis Club. The victory capped an undefeated season (15-0) for the Falcons and left the Ravens 20-4. Three of CCA’s losses came against Torrey Pines.
Seniors Matt Sah and Michael Hao won all three of their singles matches for Torrey with fellow senior Eshan Talluri taking 2-of-3. All three are ticketed to play collegiate tennis next season.
Torrey Pines Head Coach Skip Strode, who has been at the helm for the last two CIF title runs, tends to look at his sport in a black-and-white fashion and while acknowledging the talent on his opponent’s roster, fully expected to see his side prevail.
“This team’s good (CCA) but tennis is different than other sports,” said Strode. “If your guys are better than their guys they will hardly ever lose.
“I’m not being cocky but when I look at our roster and look at their roster, we are better.”
Typically, Canyon Crest Head Coach Chris Black and his predecessor Larry Belinsky have tried to combat their neighborhood foe with depth and superior doubles play. In the 18-point high school scoring format, if they were able to sweep doubles, the Ravens would then need to turn the tables just once in the nine singles skirmishes to carry a match. They’ve come close before but Friday’s outcome was in large measure decided in the match’s first rotation.
As anticipated, Torrey Pines swept the three singles contests but also pulled out a point at No. 2 doubles where Zach Bromm and David Ni upended Daniel Lane and Nathan Zhang, 6-4. Early on, it had appeared matters were progressing as planned for Black & Co.
“That first rotation, we had a 4-1 lead in all three doubles matches and I figured we’d be 3-3 after that round,” said Black. “No doubt about it, they’re even tougher when playing with the lead and I think if we could have split that first rotation, it might have changed the complexion of the match.
“Not that we would have necessarily won, but when the outcome is still hanging in the balance, it creates a different scenario as opposed to needing a miracle.” While it may not have been time to start asking for divine intervention after the first rotation, that’s likely all that could have saved CCA after the second. The Falcons again swept singles but scooped up two doubles points as well, meaning the Ravens would need to win all six third rotation clashes to force a tiebreaker.
Canyon Crest junior Derek Sung upset Talluri, 6-1, in the third rotation to claim his team’s only single point of the afternoon but, ironically, the Falcons clinched the section title in the doubles arena when the duo of Eric Silberman and Matteo Shafer closed out Lane and Zhang.
“We’ve improved and the reality is Eric Silberman is a guy who was playing singles for us last year,” said Strode. “This team is better than last year’s and gotten better as the season’s progressed.”
Perhaps in a nod to the veracity of Strode’s comment, Black made a pre-match adjustment that he hoped would strengthen the doubles portion of his own lineup. He split up his undefeated No. 1 doubles pair of senior Luke Williams and freshman Bryce Nakashima.
“Luke and Bryce could be the favorites to win doubles in the CIF individual championships in two weeks,” conceded Black. “In doubles, they would probably have own all three matches today but by separating them and having them anchor two teams, the thought was they would win four-to-six matches—they won both points in the first rotation and 1-of-2 in the second but the third didn’t work out as well.”
Sah, who’s set to continue his tennis career at UC Irvine and won his three matches by a game total of 18-6 (12-2 in the first two rotations) in the final, was ecstatic about keeping the Torrey Pines streak alive, as well as the way he performed against a trio of CCA opponents with diverse styles.
“Winning the championship as a senior—it’s awesome,” he said. “most of us have played together for three years and these guys are my best buds. Personally, I felt like I was just really solid today, making a lot of serves and not making a lot of mistakes.
“Each of their singles players brings something different, but I just try to play my normal style and then adapt if something’s going wrong. I thought all of our singles guys were playing really well and I wasn’t surprised at all with the doubles results—we have a very deep team and our doubles guys are really good.”
For Black and the Ravens, Friday might have been an opportunity missed, but it hardly took the shine off a glittering year. “Knowing that we were 20-4 and only lost to two teams, well that’s a tremendously successful season,” said Black in summation. “We lose three players from today’s starting lineup—Luke Williams, Daniel Patel and Nathan Zhang. We’re a young team and I expect to see us contending again in 2020.”