Boys tennis’ ends CCS run with semifinal loss to tough Menlo Park team

May 16, 2023 — by Daniel Wu and Ariel Zhou
Courtesy of Luke Stratakos
Freshman Somei Ogata prepares a backhand in a match against Bellarmine
From a rocky season start with numerous losses and injured players, the team has recovered and finished strong in the semifinal CCS bracket.

From unexpected injuries to rained-out practices, the boys’ tennis team faced no shortage of challenges this season, overcoming them and ending the season in a CCS semifinal loss to No. 1 seeded Menlo Park.

 By the season’s midseason point at the end of March, the team stood at a 3-3 record as they struggled to find their groove. However, as the player injuries healed and as the courts dried, the team gradually made a comeback and went on to conclude their season with a 7-5 league season record.

The Falcons began their CCS journey with a 6-1 win against Mountain View on May 8. They then advanced into the quarterfinals where they eked out a 4-3 win against Bellarmine on May 10. Ultimately, the team ended their CCS journey in the semifinals where they fell 7-0 to Menlo Park on May 11. 

In the end, Cupertino clutched the league championship in a narrow 4-3 victory against Menlo Park on May 12. For the entirety of the season, Menlo Park has stood as the dominant force in the league, with an astounding 19-0 record prior to their loss against Cupertino in the CCS finals.

No. 3 singles player junior Johan Amirineni attributed the team’s early season struggles to having an underclassmen-heavy team that required more time to adjust to high school tennis, which involves greater cooperation compared to outside tournaments as players are often paired into doubles while in tournaments most tennis players compete in singles. Still, the Falcons were talented and learned with each match.

“We’re all really close to each other, which is a good thing for team spirit, but we horsed around a little too much so we lacked that crucial locked-in practice time at the start of the season,” Amirineni said.

Nonetheless, the underclassmen proved their ability as freshman Somei Ogata and Nikhil Srivastava currently play as the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players on the team.

Additionally, key team members were afflicted by injuries, including team captain Julian Berkowitz-Sklar, who suffered elbow tendonitis, and junior Shrey Jain, who was forced to opt out due to a non-tennis-related heel fracture. 

At the time of injury, Berkowitz-Sklar played as No. 3 doubles and Jain played as No. 1 doubles. Their injuries forced a shift in the doubles pairing, and sophomore Teddy O’ Yang substituted in for Berkowitz-Sklar while freshman Andre Popas substituted in for Jain. The players were forced to adjust their play styles in order to accommodate their new teammates.

In order to facilitate an easier transition for the new doubles, head coach Florin Marica ran many circuit practice sessions where every few rounds players would be placed with new doubles partners in order to familiarize them in playing with different playstyles.

Following the return of Berkowitz-Sklar and Jain at the end of March, the team swapped to their normal doubles pairings which led to a string of victories.

“Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my final high school season so it truly is a blessing that I’ve recovered to a point where I can play,” Berkowitz-Sklar said.

Amirineni mentioned that the team has been able to bond through strife, as the challenges from missing key players to facing multiple losses early season meant that players had to be understanding of one another and persevere together.

“We definitely grew to understand that tennis is not just about winning your own match but also cheering on and looking out for your teammates,” Amirineni said.

Captain Berkowitz-Sklar mentioned that he feels confident in the team’s ability to succeed in future seasons as the underclassmen have trained rigorously and learned to cope with unexpected challenges.

“I’m definitely proud of the work that the team and especially the underclassmen have put in this season. High school tennis was quite the ride and I’m grateful for every moment I’ve shared with the team,” Berkowitz-Sklar said.

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