Repeat performance means end of line for ’Jackets
The Berkeley High boys’ tennis team went into Thursday’s North Coast Section matchup with De La Salle with a pretty good idea of what they were facing. Unfortunately, the ’Jackets couldn’t figure out how to change history.
After losing 4-3 to the Spartans two weeks ago in a tuneup for the playoffs, fifth-seeded Berkeley (12-4) fell by the same score on Thursday at Club Sport Valley Vista in Walnut Creek, ending their season. The distribution of wins and losses was identical, with fourth-seeded De La Salle (21-2) claiming victory in the No. 1 and 2 singles and doubles and Berkeley cleaning up with wins from their No. 3 and 4 singles and No. 3 doubles team.
The outcome of the match was decided early, as the Spartans won four of the first five completed matchups. Jim Pucetti was the first to claim a win, beating Jonah Schrogin 6-0, 6-3 in the No. 2 singles spot.
Next to fall for Berkeley was top solo Nicky Baum, beaten by Mike Reiser 6-2, 7-5. Baum had taken Reiser to a third set in their first meeting, but just couldn’t get going on Thursday. Each player started the match by breaking their opponent twice, but Baum tailed off as Reiser got stronger.
“I think I could have won either match, but it just didn’t happen for me today,” Baum said. “I broke him a few times, but he just happened to break me right back.”
The top doubles match was the next to end, with De La Salle’s Ian Hardey and Nick Campbell beating Berkeley’s Ben Chambers and Quincy Moore 7-5, 6-2. The Berkeley side had a good shot at winning the first set, going up 5-4 and holding serve, but some untimely errors gave the Spartan team the next three games for the set.
“We had a big opportunity there, but I just couldn’t get my serve in,” Moore said. “After that we just lost focus and went down.”
Breaking the monotony of Spartan victories was the Berkeley No. 3 doubles team of Tak Katsuura and Nick Larsson, who downed Steven Jones and John Voluntine 6-4, 6-4. But just moments later, Ryan Cousins and Pat Tool finished off any hopes for a Berkeley comeback with a 6-4, 6-4 win of their own over Adam Akullian and Shahaub Roudbari in the No. 2 doubles slot, assuring the Spartans of victory. De La Salle will face top-seeded San Ramon Valley, which knocked off University (San Francisco) 6-1.
“We match up pretty well with San Ramon, although they’re a little deeper than us,” said De La Salle head coach Lenny Lucero. “It won’t be an easy match for them.”
This is Lucero’s first venture into NCS territory with De La Salle after five years with the program. He said the preview match with Berkeley gave him a pretty good idea what to expect on Thursday.
“I knew our one and two singles were pretty much sure things, and I was pretty confident in our doubles teams,” he said. “But we barely beat ‘em.”
The team score was made closer by the final two matches of the day. Both Nate Simmons and Peter Logan knew their team had no chance to win as they entered their third sets, but both had something extra on the line: neither player had a loss on their record this season.
“It crossed my mind, but I tried not to think about it,” Simmons said of his perfect season. “I just wanted to win to make the score more respectable for my team.”
Logan finished off James Bloomburgh in a tiebreak, 9-7, beating an opponent who had played at Berkeley High for two years before transferring to De La Salle before his junior year. Logan, however, is a sophomore and never played with Bloomburgh.
The Simmons-Kevin Schweigert match was the marathon of the day, taking nearly 2 1/2 hours to finish. Their final set didn’t even start until every match but Logan’s was completed. After losing a tiebreak in the second set, Simmons used his conditioning and athleticism to take the third 6-3.
“I feel like we played well, but (De La Salle) just played a little better,” Berkeley head coach Dan Seguin said. “We were close and I felt like we had some opportunities in the doubles matches, but we just didn’t execute.”
Berkeley should have a strong team again next season, with Baum, Simmons and Logan all returning, along with the team of Katsuura and Larsson. Seguin said the experience of getting to the second round of the NCS for the first time in several years should help the returning players, and he hopes to provide some better competition next season.
“Other good teams have a big advantage over us since they play in stronger leagues,” Seguin said. “The ACCAL is all screwed up. Some teams can’t even fill their lineups. I think we do a great job competing with schools like De La Salle when we don’t have the kind of facilities or competition that they do.”