As the seniors crossed through the gate and onto the red tennis court surface, ready for practice, the men’s head varsity tennis coach Jim Landes asked each of them, “You flunked out? You got to repeat this year again?”
“Absolutely coach,” senior Sam Cheng responded jokingly.
“None of them are coming back,” Landes said, learning to accept that he will lose half his team because they will graduate this June.
They started out the year in Fresno at a statewide tournament, and have continued to build their team relationships since then.
Landes said that the team is overall pretty even without any superstar players, as there have been in past seasons. Because of their depth, they won the WACC league.
Senior Sam Cheng said that they have to work together more in order to win matches.
“We have to know who to put where,” Cheng said. “In the past, if we had three tournament players, we would just put them one, two and three because they would have a good shot of winning.”
Sophomore Rohan Srivastava said that they also have more flexibility this year.
“We can kind of put any player in any position and still feel confident in our ability to get a victory,” Srivastava said.
This year is different than previous years because they did not have as many players who compete in tournaments outside of school, Cheng said.
The team’s depth was seen in how they won their second match against Berkeley High after losing in their first encounter. That win, which Landes considers one of the highlights of the season, put them in a tie with Berkeley for the league championships.
“I was particularly proud of Ricky Peters who lost it to the same guy a month earlier and beat him the second time because of mental maturity,” Landes said. “He didn’t lose his cool the second time like he did the first time and he played very smart.”
Since he was a freshman, and even more so this year, the tennis team has an environment in which underclassmen connect with upperclassmen, Cheng said.
“No individual person is the hero or the workhorse of the team,” Cheng said. “I think the thing that is most important is that it’s a way to bridge gaps [between grades].”
Srivastava, the number one singles player for Varsity, also appreciates the team dynamic.
“Everyone’s really supportive, and practices are really laid-back and relaxed, which is nice,” Srivastava said. “It gives us an opportunity to practice in a stress-free environment and improve all of our games.”
With seven seniors graduating, the team has a road of rebuilding ahead of them.
“It’ll be interesting to see how that goes and certainly fun to welcome lots of new people onto the team next year,” Srivastava said.