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Boys’ tennis preview: Overcoming obstacles with experience

Published February 25, 2014

The Palo Alto High School boys’ tennis team is looking ahead to a successful season with a great lineup of experienced seniors as well as thriving underclassmen.

This year features an experienced overall team with seven seniors out of 13 total players, according to sophomore Shiv Matta.

“We lost a few seniors last year, but we’ve got a ton of experience on this team as we have majority seniors save for four players,” Matta said.

Aside from the seniors, two new players on the team as well as Matta’s recovery from an injury last year are great additions to the experienced members, according to senior Austin Leung.

“Shiv Matta is healthy now and we picked up [junior] Raymond Li and [freshman] Adrian Smith who should be able to contribute immediately,” Leung said. “Seeing how everyone has been playing, the team looks the strongest it has in four years. … [Sophomore] Ronak Baldua and [senior] Jack Paladin have improved a lot and will likely lead our singles and doubles respectively.”

With the strong squad, the team hopes to exceed previous years’ result of reaching the second round of Central Coast Section playoffs, and ending with a 13-11 record. The past two seasons have ended in losses to Bellarmine High School in this round. Last season the team also performed well at the statewide tournament in Fresno with a 2-2 performance.

“Our goal is to go as far as we can in CCS,” Leung said. “The last few years we lost in the second round, and this year we would like to get further.”

Coach Andy Harader reflects the players’ views with his high expectations for this year’s team.

“The overall goal is to come in really high up in our league,” Harader said. “Whether we can come in first, I’m not sure, but there’s a chance we can come in second. … I’m also hoping to get seeded in the CCS sectionals.”

Senior Blake Smith agrees that the team this year should be stronger than previous years. With several seniors, including Smith, having played on varsity since their freshman year, the team has plenty of high-level experience.

“This team is the best we’ve had in a while,” Smith said.  “We’re looking to be pretty dominant this year.”

The kryptonite of the team is the lack of unity, according to coach Harader.

“The challenge this year is to make the team cohesive,” Harader said. “Everybody’s got their own opinions.”

However, players are just seeking to focus on their success in the game according to Matta.

“Our challenge is going to be staying focused on winning and becoming better tennis players,” Matta said. “We are all a great group of guys and solid tennis players. Just like every team, we are going to have our bumps along the way, but I think in the end we are going to be just fine.”

The competitive environment can also be taken as a positive as it encourages players to reach new heights, according to Smith.

“I really want to dominate and maintain my ranking on the team,” Smith said. “I’m looking to improve and [I'm] going for a faster serve.”

The first match of the season will take place at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon at home against Woodside High School.

“We are just gonna go and do our thing: play hard, compete hard, and do our best to win against Woodside,” Matta said.


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