Almost undefeated, tennis takes aim at CCS success

May 2, 2008 — by Brian Tsai

Boys' tennis vs. Aptos in CCS action

Monta Vista. Defeated. Palo Alto. Taken out. Even Menlo, last year’s CCS champions, were no match for the amazing boys’ tennis team. But Gunn did not go down like the rest. The Falcons suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Titans, 3-4, on April 24.

The Falcons finished 16-1 this season. Senior Sameet Ramakrishnan attributes this year’s success to many of the players having experience at high levels of the sport.

“I think we had a lot of depth, and I think the underclassmen are really good, especially the sophomore and freshman classes,” said Ramakrishnan. “There are a lot of tennis backgrounds, and compared to other teams, our worst players are better than their worst players, so the talent was spread out.”

In addition to widespread talent, the team has highly skilled singles players. Freshman Nikhil Jayashankar and sophomores Eric Gast, John Lamble and Michael McGinnis are all nationally ranked in the age groups they compete in. Thus, the singles players could be expected to win most of their matches, taking pressure off the doubles players and helping their performances.

Another key factor is the strong chemistry among the players. The team’s closeness was easy to see with many of the traditions they carry out, such as “going to church.”

“[Church is] just a cheer that we do to pump ourselves up [before matches]” said senior captain Emerson Lin. “Basically, it started with Abhinav Dev, a veteran on the team who graduated last year, and Sameet thought it would be cool if he continued the tradition by leading off the sermons.”
The teammates’ support of each other can also be seen on and off the courts during matches.

“Tennis is a nationally individual game, but we’re always looking out at the other matches and encouraging our teammates in between our own points,” said Ramakrishnan. “On some other teams, people just leave [when they finish their own matches], but we always stay and cheer on the teammates that are still playing.”
In the match against Gunn, Gast was unable to play due to a national tournament in southern California, causing changes in the usual lineup. In addition to making up for a lost player, two players, sophomore Aditya Joshi and Lin, struggled with finger and leg muscle injuries, respectively.

Lamble finished his season undefeated, sailing to another easy win 6-0, 6-1. McGinnis crushed his opponent 6-1, 6-2, while Jayashankar also came through with a win, pulling out a tough match 6-3 in the third set.

“I think we went into the match feeling a little overconfident,” said No. 2 doubles player Andrew Hsieh. “But as we all saw in the Super Bowl as well as our match yesterday, even the greatest can fall sometimes.”

With CCS starting today, Joshi believes that the biggest obstacle for the team is playing consistently well match after match.

“The biggest challenge going into CCS would be not choking under pressure like we did against Gunn,” said Joshi. “[As for teams,] Sacred Heart, Menlo or Bellarmine would probably be the toughest to beat.”

Although coach Bruce Brinkman agrees, he thinks a CCS title is within this team’s reach.

“We may end up being the two seed, because Bellarmine is currently undefeated,” said Brinkman. “But we have a very strong team and I don’t think that it will make a difference as long as we continue to play well.”