After defeating Valley Christian High School in the first round of the Central Coast Section (CCS) team tournament, the Aragon boys tennis team fell to fourth-seeded Gunn High School 7-0 on May 8. The Titans swept the Dons and did not even drop a single set the whole day.
No. 1 singles player and senior Matthew Fowler says, “I knew going into the match that it was going to be very difficult as I would have to play one of the highest ranked players in the nation, and that [no. 2 singles and junior Landers Ngirchemat would also have] the same problem.”
Fowler’s opponent, senior Andy Zhou, was ranked sixth in the state and won 6-0, 6-1 while Ngirchemat played the no. 8 player in the state, sophomore Conrad Russell, who won 6-0, 6-0.
Fowler says, “I knew that [Gunn was] a stronger team and that this would be a learning experience for the whole team. [The team should learn] to use some of the tactics that they used against us. Gunn’s players were very aggressive and attacked the net a lot.”
No. 3 singles player and junior Jonathan Liu says, “Going to Gunn really showed us what the strongest teams are like. Their players are stronger than us, but their players are more of a team. The team was really in sync — even their introductions were together, and they showed a lot more support for each other than we had seen from other teams in our league. They really opened our eyes to what we should strive to be like as a team.”
Prior to the game, the Dons defeated the visiting Valley Christian Warriors 4-3 in the first round. All four wins came from their singles players, while all three doubles teams lost their matches.
Fowler says, “They humbled us because we had just won the [Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) Tournament] as a team. When we almost lost to Valley Christian, we knew that we definitely weren’t as strong as we had previously thought.”
On the season overall, Liu cites the team’s 5-2 victory against Carlmont one of the highest points of the season. The win gave the Dons their second consecutive PAL title and qualified them for CCS. “I think the key to our victory was our doubles,” says Liu. “Our doubles were strong this year because we didn’t lose too many players last year. We only lost two players last year and they both played singles.”
The postseason also included Fowler and Ngirchemat capturing the PAL doubles title once again at the end of April. Fowler says, “Winning PAL in doubles was awesome. I have tried and failed the last three years and it is such a cool feeling to have won before I graduate. I also got to play with [Ngirchemat] again, which was nice because we played doubles together two years ago.”
For the season, the Dons compiled a league record of 11-3, enough to capture the no. 2 seed in the Bay division behind Menlo-Atherton. Liu says, “We solidified our doubles lineup this year. As you get to higher levels of tennis, the strength of doubles teams relies less on each individual player’s ability and more on how the pair can work as a team. Having teams that play whole seasons together really strengthens their partnership.”
Moving forward, the Dons hope to sustain their success, having made it past the first round of CCS for the past two years. Their four consecutive CCS-qualification stands at one of the longest of any sport at Aragon. Fowler says, “I was very happy with how we did in CCS and also that in all four of my years at Aragon, we were able to make it to CCS.”