San Marino High tennis thanks ace James Wade for trip to regional finals
Tennis: Wade wins dramatic third set to clinch Titans' win over Palm Desert, sending them to Southern California Regional finals with University Saturday.
Officials were forced to wheel out the big chair for a line judge for the first time Friday, as a trip to the CIF/United States Tennis Assn. Southern Regional finals all came down to one set for the Titans and a familiar foe in Palm Desert.
“I live for third sets, when it goes to a third set I feel like I have the advantage,” said Wade, who loved having the line judge and everyone’s attention as all the other matches had concluded late in his second set with Hewko with both teams deadlocked at 3. “That’s why it’s a lot of fun, to compete like that with everyone watching is why I play tennis.”
San Marino, which defeated Santa Barbara (4-3) earlier Friday, will play in its fifth team match in eight days — along with six players competing in the CIF Southern Section Individual Tournament — Saturday against reigning Division I champion University, which swept Corona del Mar (7-0) Friday.
The final match was a sign of just how different Friday's rematch was for the Titans (22-0) and seventh-seeded Aztecs (21-3) first meeting in the CIF Southern Section Division II crown on May 17. Wade shut out Hewko, 6-0, in a match San Marino won, 13-5.
“He played a lot better,” Wade said of the difference. “He played like I know he can play, pretty close to his best. It was a good battle.”
The victory led to the Titans mobbing an exhausted Wade and to an ice-water bath for San Marino Coach Melwin Pereira, who heaped praise on Wade. Pereira lauded his standout’s ability to execute the game plan he gave him before the third set, which was to hit to Hewko’s feet.
“James is just James, he’s such a teachable guy,” Pereira said. “It’s so difficult, you tell him and you think it’s easy to execute under all this pressure? He just goes out and does it. He’s been doing this the whole season. He sticks to the plan, does it and he wins. I don’t know how he does it. … He’s awesome.”
Wade won the first two games in the third set, but saw Hewko rally for ties at 2 and 3. Wade responded by holding and then breaking Hewko's serve for the second time in the set after he committed consecutive double faults to start the game.
The Titans relied on their singles players to dominate, as Ryan Cheng defeated Palm Desert’s Ryan Marker, 6-2, 7-5, and Derek Chen moved past Matt Leggat, 6-2, 6-4, for San Marino. Mark Lew and Timothy Duong provided San Marino's only doubles win over Ian Murphy and Jared de la Paz, 6-2, 6-3.
San Marino defeated 11th-seeded Santa Barbara, 4-3, in the second round Friday morning. The Titans forfeited the final two matches after they clinched the victory with their fourth win over the Division I semifinalist Dons (18-4).
It was a newly-formed, all-lefty doubles team in Lew and Arthur Wick that secured the win and drew the highest praise from Pereira heading to the semifinals.
“It feels really good, especially from Melwin,” said Lew, a senior, who posted a 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 win with Wick. “He doesn't give many compliments.”
Things didn't start out well for Wick and Lew, who'd only ever played one practice set together. They fell in a 4-1 hole to Santa Barbara's Austin Trevillian and Logan Lender. The Titans’ No. 3 doubles team then got it to 5-3 before forcing a tiebreaker by closing the first set on a 4-1 run.
Wick and Lew prevailed in the tiebreaker, 7-4, and cruised to a 6-2 win in the second set to clinch the match.
“We were trying to figure things out, so we lost the first few games, but we found how to play together and eventually got it done,” said Wick, a freshman call-up from junior varsity.
Energy was what fueled Lew and Wick's key second-round win, as the other two doubles teams were locked in tight first sets, Pereira said.
“In this sport, it's all about energy and we really put two energy players out there,” Pereira said. “Arthur did not know he was going to play.”
The Titans also won three of four singles sets against Santa Barbara. Wade defeated Santa Barbara's Graham Maassen, 6-2, 6-0, Daniel Gealer knocked off Morgan Hak, 6-1, 6-3, and Ryan Cheng beat Jordan Rodnick, 6-2, 6-4, for San Marino.