Tennis: Falcons crush Battle of the Bay; rivalry with Los Gatos heats up

October 12, 2016 — by Elizabeth Lee

With a current record of 7-1, the Falcons are continuing their season goal of qualifying for NorCals, but it’s increasingly clear that just like last year, their main competition will be Los Gatos, the only team to have beaten them this year.

With a current record of 7-1, the Falcons are continuing their season goal of qualifying for NorCals, but it’s increasingly clear that just like last year, their main competition will be Los Gatos, the only team to have beaten them this year.

For the most part, the Falcons are breezing through their non-Los Gatos matches. On Oct. 6, the girls played Lynbrook for the second time, resulting in a 6-1 win against the Vikings. Since No. 2 singles player freshman Monica Stratakos was injured, the girls had to juggle a new and different lineup but played hard to obtain another victory.

The team took on Gunn High School on Oct. 4 in their sixth league match, bringing home a victory of 5-2. All the doubles played exceptionally well, locking the Falcons’ win against the Titans.

The previous weekend, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the girls won at the annual Battle of the Bay, a tournament held at Cupertino High School consisting of eight teams each from the South Bay and the North Bay. On the first day, the Falcons won all four matches with a 6-1 victory against San Ramon Valley High School and a 7-0 victory against Miramonte. The next morning, the girls won 6-1 against Mill Valley-Tamalpais High and then won 7-0 against Piedmont in the afternoon.

Four players were absent on Oct. 1, the second day of the tournament, due to the SAT and USTA Sectional Championships, a major tennis tournament, held the same day, so the lineup was altered to ensure the victories against Mill Valley-Tamalpais and Piedmont. Freshman Vivian Lin was pulled up from JV to complete the lineup.

“It was difficult to try and figure out what would work best, since we did not have some of our strongest doubles and singles players to compete,” No. 3 doubles player sophomore Khiara Berkowitz said. The Falcons played the Homestead Mustangs on Sept. 28, finishing off with a win of 4-3. No. 3 and 4 singles players Annissa Mu and Varsha Horantur led the team to a strong start, winning their matches 6-1, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-0, respectively.

“Homestead is definitely a strong team and some of our doubles struggled, but we will be working on match strategies to further strengthen our team,” Stratakos said.

The week before, the girls had a heated and controversial match at home against rival Los Gatos on Sept. 22, suffering a loss of 4-3, and motivating the players to work even harder to win league championship.

“Los Gatos is our biggest rival this season and it was tough to accept defeat, since we have consistently beat them for the past few years,” No. 3 doubles player senior Shreya Ingle said. “We had a good chance of winning but No. 2 singles Monica Stratakos was injured, which brought us down.”

During the match, the two teams found themselves arguing over a controversial match that would ultimately determine the winner. The match score was 3-3. The final match, No. 3 singles, would break the tie, determining the winner for the overall match.

The singles match was at a split set, meaning that the set score was 1-1 and the players had to then play a tiebreaker in lieu of a third set to finish the match. Aware that this was a crucial match that had to be won, No. 3 singles player junior Stephanie Ren headed to the bathroom before the tiebreaker to take a short break from the pressure on the court.

Though the match had not yet finished, the Los Gatos player refused to play and Los Gatos claimed the match as their victory, claiming that Ren had taken too long in the bathroom. This sparked a bitter argument among the parents, players and coaches between the two teams.

“It wasn’t right for them to just claim their victory in an unfair way,” Stratakos said. “The victory should’ve been ours, but since they are so determined to beat us this year they are doing whatever it takes to bring us down. ”

Following the match, a Los Gatos player posted comments on her Snapchat story that Falcons players saw in a negative way

“She basically flipped us off and said that we had cheated when in reality we did not,” Stratakos said. “It really furiated us and increased our determination to beat them in our future matches.”

Last year, the team faced Los Gatos in the finals of CCS, which would determine who would compete in NorCals. Even though Saratoga won 4-3, the matches were close and difficult, alerting the team that Los Gatos was now a strong team to be reckoned with.

“We’re going to have to fight very hard to gain a spot in NorCals this year, since we are expecting to meet them in the finals for CCS again this year,” No. 2 doubles player senior Neeka Nikfar said. “Los Gatos is a very strong team overall after gaining many skilled players last year, but I know that we will be able to pull through and beat them.”

Despite the loss, the Falcons are confident that they will continue the season strong and are looking forward to facing the Wildcats once again on Oct. 18.