Boys tennis crowned National Champions

Sophomore Brandon Aprill prepares to unleash a forehand in a match earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Pam Tso McKenney.

By Sam Fortenbaugh

Over this past weekend, the Menlo boys’ tennis team won the 19th annual National Invitational All-American Tournament at Palisades Tennis club. Eight teams were invited to this elite tournament: Menlo, Harvard-Westlake, Peninsula, University, Monta Vista, Woodbridge, Corona del Mar, The Haverford School (PA), Beacon School (NY), Catalina Foothill (AZ), Catholic (LA), Lincoln (OR), Acadia Iolani (HI) and New Trier (IL).

Menlo participates in the tournament every year. This is the first time since 2012 that it has won the tournament. This years team features three All-Americans: senior Sid Chari, senior Bo Leschly and junior Andrei Volgin.

In the first round, Menlo cruised to victory, defeating The Haverford School (PA) 8-0. “Against Haverford, I think we played really well because we didn’t take them for granted and we definitely brought the energy and took it to them, although it could have been easy to overlook them,” junior Andrei Volgin said.

Menlo defeated Iolani (HI) 5-3 in the second round. “Iolani was definitely a battle. We beat them last year either 8-0 or 7-1, and this year, they really brought the energy and made us earn a hard fought win. They were the first indication of what was to come later,” Volgin said.

After advancing to the semifinals, the Knights handily beat Peninsula 6-1. “Peninsula was an important match for a couple of reasons. It was a rematch from last year, and we managed to beat them again, so it was good to see that we could still compete with top Southern California schools," Volgin said. "That definitely gave us a huge shot of confidence going into the finals. Once again, our energy was key. They had way more support being the hometown team, yet all 15 of our players really took it to them, and showed how much we wanted to win."

In the finals, Menlo beat Harvard-Westlake 6-3. Chari won his match 8-6, Volgin won his 8-5, Leschly won 8-6, Kim won 8-7, Safran won 8-3, and the Leschly-Safran pair won their doubles match 8-4. “During the finals match we lost 2 out of 3 doubles in the first round so then we had to win at least 4 out of the 6 singles. We were losing most of the singles but they all started to come back at the end and we started winning and it ended being the closest 6-3 win we have ever had,” junior Luca St Goar said.

The championship match certainly didn't lack excitement. “Harvard-Westlake was definitely my favorite win of the Tournament. Although we were seeded higher than them, we went into the match knowing it was really even, and we couldn’t take them for granted," Volgin said. The Knights had to stage a comeback to emerge victorious. "We went down early, there were a total of 9 matches (so first team to 5 wins) and we went down 3-2 after the doubles and 2 singles matches. Not only that, but on Court 1 Sid was losing pretty bad to a guy he should have been beating easily, and we were battling on the rest of the courts, so the win wasn’t guaranteed to either team. I’m really proud of how we handled that pressure, knowing that it was just 1 or 2 points that could switch the momentum of the whole match."

The Knights are enjoying having all six starters from last year return. This tournament was special to the team because they had lost most of their major tournaments in the past years. “It is so rewarding because we have worked so hard to get back on top,” St Goar said. This tournament has given the team a huge boost in confidence that it will carry on with them throughout the rest of the regular and postseason.

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