Prior to Wednesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoff opener against Camarillo, San Luis Obispo High boys tennis coach Ken Peet sat his team down in a circle for his traditional pregame talk.
He reminded the Tigers that in this bracket, a step up from the Division 3 tournaments from previous years, they might be favored in the first round but a victory would not come as easy as they’re accustomed to.
It showed early, with his top two doubles teams trailing midway through their first sets, but No. 8 seed San Luis Obispo showed its resolve and depth, winning both those sets and the match, 14-4, against the visiting Scorpions.
“A key was that first round,” said Peet, whose Tigers (21-3) led 5-1 after the first rotation. “Those two sets could have gone either way, and if we lose both of those, it’s 3-3. We won them both, and that was huge.”
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The top doubles team of Alex Dill and Adie Alwen swept its sets, pulling out that close first set 7-5 before winning 6-1, 6-2.
The tandems of Chase Braun and Pablo Caminada, and Cameron Dong and Elijah Selman took two of three, as Peet kept all three of his doubles pairs in the entire match despite clinching the win after the first two rounds.
“This team has good doubles guys, so I want them to play three good sets,” he said. “The doubles are going to be like that at this level, and it’s only going to get tougher as we go forward.”
Singles, however, were a difference story with two of the Tigers’ three starters in singles battling through wrist ailments.
Noah Cleere won his lone set 6-1 before giving way to Sid Alwen, who won one of two.
Guillermo Bonnet, a foreign exchange student from Spain, won 6-0, 7-5 before replacement Kannan Freyaldenhoven took the final set 7-5. Alessandro Pederzoli, another exchange student from Italy, won two of three.
“It’s so rare that you have two foreign kids that are at the level that they are at,” said Cleere, one of two seniors who were on the 2013 team that fell to Arroyo Grande in the Division 3 finals. “They bring a lot of talent and excitement to our matches. It’s really a treat.”
The Tigers had success at the Division 3 level, reaching that championship match two years ago by upsetting three seeded teams in consecutive rounds — including the top seed. Last year, San Luis Obispo made it to the semifinals before falling 10-8.
So although a move up in division means a step up in competition, the Tigers have seniors in all nine starting spots with the experience and drive to close out their careers on a high note. “We all really want,” Cleere said. “Got close last year, got closer the year before. This is our last year to see if we can pull it out, and I’m excited to see where it takes us.”
San Luis Obispo will either host West Ranch or travel to Charter Oak for the second round Friday before a likely date with top-seeded Santa Margarita in the quarterfinals Monday. If both teams host a second-round match, the home team in the quarters would come down to a coin flip.
“We play as well as we’ve been playing, we’ve got a chance in any match in D2,” Peet said. “But we have a history of losing coin flips and traveling like crazy, so if it turns around this year, I’ll love it.
“The kids all want a road trip, but I’m like, no way. I’ll stay here and eat my home cookin’ all the time.”