Tennis in the MS has grown in confidence and stature, overcoming opponent after opponent on their way to winning two league championships – the WBAL (West Bay Athletic League) and the MTP (Mid-Peninsula Tennis Patrons). Building a winning team has been a challenging task for head coach KV Ganesh and assistant coach Cyrus Castillo, but one that they have taken on every bit of the way.
“Middle school tennis is about a sport where a lot of individual talent exists and the focus is to get these individuals to play in a team environment,” says Ganesh. Tryouts spanned several days. “This year we had 72 middle school boys and girls tryout for the 25 spots in the team,” says Ganesh, “and the team has 18 players who have a USTA ranking, the most we have seen all these years.” This year’s team was Niharika Bedekar, Pranav Bheda, Neel Bhoopalam, Josh Bollar, Jenny Chen, Simar Mangat, Nikhil Panu, Piyush Prasad, Chau Nguyen, Indica Sur, Justin Yang, all Gr. 8; Vikas Bhetanabhotla, Katia Mironova, Avinash Nayak, Sahithya Prakash, Ariana Shulma, all Gr. 7; and Neel Bedekar, Vikram Chari, Deepa Dhore, John Dobrota, Srivinay Irrinki, Ethan Ma, Ryan Palmer, Sriram Somasundaram, Vedant Thyagaraj, all Gr. 6.
Although the season started with a narrow defeat, Harker quickly settled down into a rhythm and remained undefeated for the rest of the regular season in both leagues. Having qualified to play in the Silver Division for the WBAL, the Eagles went on to claim the WBAL championships with two more victories in that league.
In the 20-year history of the MTP League, Harker’s best achievement has been as a “runner-up” in 2007. This time around the Eagles were more determined than ever to have their name on that championship trophy. They advanced through each round in the face of ever-growing competition. On May 26 they posted a convincing 7-2 victory over Bret Harte, whom they had lost to in the finals just a couple of years ago. The mood in the Eagles camp was ecstatic – they enjoyed every bit of ending the season on this high note!
The coaches had little difficulty in naming Chen as the Most Valuable Player. Having been a part of the singles quartet for all three years, she was there against every one of Harker’s opponents this season. Chari was undefeated this season and walked away with the Eagles Award. Nayak received the Coaches’ Award for his inspirational display of team spirit on and off court. He helped keep the team together through tough times.
Coach Ganesh extended his thanks to Harker’s administration and support staff for providing the facilities and transportation to the team. He hastened to add, “I particularly want to thank all the parents of the team for the support they provided and the sacrifices they made to help our team with their achievements during this season of two championships!”