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Boys’ tennis suffers heartbreaking loss on senior night

Senior+Dylan+Ares-Hanson+dictated+his+match+at+the+third+singles+position.
Evelyn Du
Senior Dylan Ares-Hanson dictated his match at the third singles position.

Almost.

It may be a simple word, but it’s the perfect way to describe the season for boys’ tennis. Almost triumphing over third-place Carlmont High School and nearly beating fourth-place Menlo-Atherton High School. And almost — albeit a bit of a stretch — qualifying for the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) tournament to compete in the Central Coast Section (CCS) competition. Just almost, but not quite.

What kept these crushing defeats from being landmark victories? According to head coach Doug Stone, wins in the dreaded third-set super tiebreak.

Throughout the season, the boys’ biggest roadblock was the ten-point tiebreaker played in lieu of a third set after competitors are tied at one set apiece. In their 3-4 loss to Carlmont, the Panthers dropped all three tiebreakers. The team repeated the same sequence of events against Menlo-Atherton — a 3-4 loss, and not a single tiebreaking win.

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“We had a very, very tough record when it came to third set tiebreaks and a tough record in tiebreaks overall,” Stone said. “We had an opportunity to close matches out by winning a second set tiebreak, and then didn’t take that down, and then lost in the third set tiebreak.”

The season-long trend continued on Burlingame’s senior night. On Tuesday, April 16, the Panthers lost 6-1 to Woodside High School, failing to break their tiebreak streak. Although the scoreline looks lopsided, it was in fact a closely contested match that could have gone either way.

Senior Dylan Ares-Hanson gave the team the first — and what turned out to be the only — win of the day at No. 3 singles. After clinching the first set 7-5, he dictated the match with his powerful forehand and one-handed backhand, breezing through with a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

“I’ve played a lot of different positions, but it feels good to end with a win at singles,” Ares-Hanson said. “I always tell myself in my head, ‘I can’t win’ when I can. [I] have to let [myself] play free but at the same time, focus on each point, and just take it one at a time.”

However, after that, the match was a constant tug-of-war. Woodside got themselves on the scoreboard with two victories of their own — taking the 2-1 lead. But Burlingame soon got their revenge by dominating the second sets to tie each of the four remaining matches at 1-1.

Frustratingly, just like in their previous tiebreakers against Carlmont and Menlo-Atherton — the momentum was never in the Panthers’ favor in the ten-point decider. Despite bageling his opponent in the second set, No. 4 singles freshman Caleb Chou trailed in the super-tiebreak and lost 7-5, 0-6, 10-6. No. 1 singles junior Nicolas Moshkovoy played stellar, blasting countless pinpoint aces on the line, but it wasn’t enough for the win, losing 6-4, 3-6, 10-7.

The doubles courts were met with equally frustrating results. For a second, it seemed like the No.1 doubles pair of sophomores Kieran Kilgo and Jake Druskin were about to clinch the win, but a series of questionable line calls caused a lapse in their focus, resulting in a 6-4, 2-6, 12-10 defeat.

While Burlingame had already lost, No. 3 doubles — seniors Sam Sorof and Alex Cerc — were still fighting. The team had gathered to watch and cheer them on for their super-tiebreak, but the seniors suffered from unforced errors and dropped their match 6-4, 2-6, 10-8.

“Look at four or five matches that we played, we’ve lost literally by a few points,” Stone said. “It just comes down to tiebreaks. You know, that third set super tiebreak. They’re not easy.”

With the loss to Woodside and four straight super-tiebreaker losses, there was a clear feeling of disappointment. The boys had wanted to win this match — not just to break their losing streak in tiebreakers, but to make their very last match special for senior night.

“I feel sad,” sophomore Noah Chiang said. “I know that’s a generic answer, [but next year] I’ll feel like something’s missing when I’m on the court because when I’m practicing and playing games, I enjoy the presence of the seniors, Chinmay and Dylan.”

Despite the disappointing end to the season, the seniors still cherish the friends, memories and lessons learned while playing on the tennis team.

“Playing No. 1 doubles with Chinmay freshman year was super cool,” Ares-Hanson said. “Coming into the team, we didn’t think that we were going to be able to play that high of a position or be that good. And we came up, we played one doubles and actually did pretty well.”

With only five graduating seniors, most of the squad is still young, leaving time for improvement in the coming seasons. 

“I think that we’re going to be a stronger team [for] next year. We’re going to learn from [our experiences]. We’re going to take from that,” Stone said. “That’s been something else and we’ve tried to do it all year. No matter what the outcome to make sure that we take something positive away.”

This story was originally published on The Burlingame B on April 20, 2024.