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The NCS postseason has been a cruel place for BVAL boys tennis. Deer Valley may just have a cure. By CHACE BRYSON | Editor...

The NCS postseason has been a cruel place for BVAL boys tennis. Deer Valley may just have a cure.

By CHACE BRYSON | Editor

 

There’s really no spin zone that could deliver a silver lining in this matter. The numbers don’t lie, and they certainly are not pretty. 

To be quite blunt: The North Coast Section boys team tennis tournament is where Bay Valley Athletic League teams go to die.

In the three years since De La Salle left the BVAL as part of the quadrennial cycle of NCS league re-alignment, five different teams from four schools have represented the league in the team tournament. The combined score of their first-round losses? 34-1. 

In fact, it was never much better even when De La Salle was still representing the league. The Spartans were the BVAL’s lone representative from 2002-2008 and made it past the quarterfinal round only twice. 

The program’s lone finals appearance in that stretch was a 6-1 loss to Monte Vista in 2003. 

Clayton Valley, which left the BVAL the same year as De La Salle, was the league representative in 2001. The Eagles lost in the first round, 6-1. 

To steal a line by Kevin Bacon’s character, Capt. Jack Ross, from the movie “A Few Good Men”: Those are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed.

The cycle has been vicious, but it can be broken. And it’s quite possible that Deer Valley has the team to do it in 2012. 

“This may be Deer Valley’s best team in 10 years,” Freedom coach Steve Amaro said in early April. 

In 2010, Wolverines tennis coach Brian Richardson welcomed the type of freshmen class that can change a program. Bolstered by talented young players, many of whom he had worked with before as part of the Deer Valley Tennis Club junior program, Richardson’s team immediately ascended to the top of the BVAL landscape. 

Deer Valley won back-to-back league titles in 2010 and 2011, accomplishing the second title without suffering a league loss. The playoffs were not so kind. The Wolverines were greeted with a 7-0 loss to top-seed Monte Vista in their first NCS team appearance in 2010 

But last season was slightly different. Redwood-Larkspur still sent the Wolverines home empty, but not after a spirited effort — which included a victory. A Deer Valley team which was only set to graduate two seniors, went home after a 6-1 loss hungry to adjust their goals for the following season. 

 “You get an introduction to (some postseason success), and you’re kind of like ‘Whoa, man! We can do so much more,’” said junior Jeremy Rotman, one half of the Wolverines‘ No. 1 doubles team. “Before, it had always been like, ‘We’ve got to win BVALs. We’ve got to win BVALs. That’s our main goal.’ But this year it was more like, ‘Dude, we can go for NCS. Let’s go further.’”

At this point, the BVAL is merely a foregone conclusion. 

Through April 14, the Wolverines held an overall record of 13-3 and a BVAL mark of 6-0. The team to play Deer Valley the toughest during the first round of league play was Heritage, taking three matches in a 6-3 loss. However, there was little drama the second time around as the Wolverines won 8-1 on April 5. Deer Valley has not lost a match to any of the four remaining BVAL teams on its schedule. 

“This year we simply have more depth,” Richardson said. “Our whole team is solid. Last year we went undefeated (in league) and felt that we had the top six singles players in the area from top to bottom. Now, we not only feel like we have the top six singles, but also the top three doubles as well.” 

If it’s the doubles teams that have taken this group to a new level, it would seem to start with the No. 1 doubles tandem of Rotman and Michael Djaja — both part of that freshmen class that arrived in 2010. 

Rotman and Djaja have known each other since they were fourth graders, but only began playing as a duo last year. Richardson was hopeful that after a strong summer season the two would develop into a sturdy No. 1 team. The pair didn’t take long to prove themselves to the coach, as they came from behind for a three-set win in the team’s first match of the season, a nonleague win over De La Salle. 

Their consistent play has caught the eyes of not just their coach, but teammates as well. 

“Michael and Jeremy together have really surprised me,” said senior and No. 4 singles player, Zac Grosser. “They didn’t have the best season last year, and they really improved and have made a big difference at No. 1 doubles for us.” 

But as good as the doubles play has been in 2012, the Wolverines biggest strength and best example of their depth relies in their singles play. That certainly includes Grossor, who went undefeated in league play as the No. 6 last year and has yet to lose a BVAL match at No. 4 this season. 

The top three singles players are senior Zahid Ahmad, freshman Zach Ea and junior Cameron Yee, respectively. After Grosse  r, the rest of the singles ladder fills out with two more juniors, Jeremy Gonzales and Adam Alemnew. 

As much as Richardson likes this group, it doesn’t include the player who represented the Wolverines in the NCS singles tournament a year ago. That honor belonged to Ahmad’s brother, Abid, who played a spirited three sets with Clayton Valley’s Jonathan Kim before succumbing 6-3, 3-6, 3-6. He was one of the two seniors to graduate last year, along with Daniel Phoe. 

“I think this singles roster is on the same level as last year’s,” Richardson said. “Our depth really allows us to give teams a difficult time. There’s no freebies in that lineup.”

But can they ignore the history? 

Can the several juniors who play key roles on the Wolverines channel what they learned in their first two NCS experiences in order to be better prepared, more loose, and more hungry than their 2012 postseason opponent?

“I’m definitely hoping that we can,” said Richardson. “We’ve put in a lot of work to prepare for this. … We’re really hoping we can change the perception that teams can play some good tennis out here.” 

Each player down the roster echoed the earlier sentiments of Rotman, that last year’s NCS result left them hungrier than ever before. 

Now it’s just about charting a path to get where they want to go.  

“We just need to keep working hard,” Zahid Ahmad said. “Hopefully the guys don’t go out there thinking about winning and losing, they just go out there ready to play their best tennis. We don’t want to worry about whether somebody is better than us, we just want to go out and play our game and see what happens.”

 

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