Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

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Boys Team of the Year: Tennis

After destroying their league, moving up divisions, and making it back to CCS, the Paly boys tennis team had one of their best seasons in recent memory.
David Zaydman
Credit of Max Merkel

Last year, despite having a strong season, the Paly boys tennis team failed to qualify for the CCS team tournament. After participating in CCS in 2022, missing the tournament was a huge let down for players – including Dhruv Shetty (‘24) – who felt they were good enough to make it.

“[Missing CCS in 2023] definitely motivated us a lot more heading into this season, as we learned to not take qualifying as a given,” Shetty said. “We made sure to play our hardest in every match.”

Shetty emphasized that the team needed to come together to achieve the group success they wanted for this year.

“We have a lot of strong players but we need to work on playing with each other more,” Shetty said in a Viking article recapping the 2023 season. “We became too focused on individual competitiveness rather than winning games.”

Shetty’s advice came to light; this year the team flipped their script and came back better than ever. Paly concluded their season with a 13-1 league record, a league championship, and a qualification for CCS.

The championship didn’t come easy, as the boys faced many adversities throughout the year.

One major challenge was replacing the production of the exiting seniors from last year’s team. Yash Shetty, Ayush Singh, Josh Kaplan, and others were important contributors to the winning 2023 season. Though these shoes were difficult to fill, the outgoing seniors were confident in the talent and ability of the younger players.

“I think our underclassmen could finish the job we started and have a great season [in 2024],” Singh said after last year. “I hope to come back home and see that they won the league next year.”

On top of the returning players, Menlo School transfer Leo Terman (‘25), and freshman Tom Li  have helped to fill the void of last year’s seniors.

After seeing the new additions, Watson Koegler (‘24) realized the potential that this team could hold.

“We were already good last year, so going into the season I knew that we were kind of the favorites to win the league,” Koegler said. “Once we [added] two of our best players, I realized we were going to be really good.”

Koegler knew the team was going to be tough to beat when they had their full arsenal, but another challenge they encountered was a lack of consistency with their lineups. Due to injuries, academic suspensions, transfer rules mandating players to sit out (for Terman) and most notably star Tyler Kuo (‘25) battling sickness over a month-long period, the team dealt with players coming in and out of the lineup constantly.

For Terman, being a transfer from Menlo meant that he had to sit out for the first half of the season, preventing the Vikings from operating at full strength for a large chunk of both non-league and league play.

“While it was sometimes confusing to set our lineup each match, we were lucky to have ample amounts of players so we always had a full roster,” Shetty said. “We also brought up a couple players from JV which helped refresh the lineup and provide further depth.”

Another way the tennis team was able to overcome these obstacles was the team’s chemistry off the court. Through the leadership of senior captains Beckett Annes and Mihir Menon, the team found ways to connect outside of tennis, helping their chemistry and overall commitment to collective success.

“Everyone is always getting along, and we often get food and hang out [as a group],” Koegler said.

In league play, after a blistering 5-0 start, the boys took their first league loss in a 4-3 nailbiter versus Los Gatos.

“The loss [to Los Gatos] was definitely rough,” Shetty said. “Our coach was out sick so we had to set our lineup ourselves.”

However, they bounced back quickly with six straight wins to set up a home rematch against Los Gatos to determine the league championship.

Rivalry games already mean more, but when they determine the sole possession of a league championship, the anticipation only heightens for players.

“We definitely came into the match hoping to win, knowing we had a stronger, healthier lineup than the first matchup,” Shetty said.

Paly prevailed in a 6-1 demolition of the Wildcats, including key individual match wins from both Terman and Li.

The win against Gatos clinched the De Anza league championship, and set themselves up for a CCS playoff berth. Winning their league also means that they get promoted to a higher division for next season.

“Winning the league is a huge accomplishment, and it feels really good to leave Paly knowing that we ended [in a better league] than we started in,” Shetty said.

Santa Clara Valley’s All League awards have not been announced yet, but the group expects plenty of nominations due to their elite play against league opponents.

In CCS, Paly won their first match 5-2 against Leland, before falling to Menlo in the next round, ending their season.

Through the challenges, the boys tennis team dominated their league, ranked up a division, and got back to CCS – hopefully setting an elite precedent for the tennis program in the future.

“I’m really proud of everyone, we had a lot of roster changes this year and I think everyone did a great job at adapting and sometimes playing in a spot they weren’t used to in order to make sure our lineup was always as good as possible,” Shetty said.

Honorable Mention: Basketball

After a competitive regular season rounded off with a state quarterfinal appearance, the boys basketball team delivered an amazing season. They ended their 29 game season with 20 wins, and a second place finish in the De Anza league.

“We had a really special group this year and I think this year stood out in terms of team chemistry, where we were not only a team but also a group of friends,” senior Riley Yuen said. “After the first few games we knew we had a unique squad that would have a chance of making it to state.”

The team qualified for Division I CCS playoffs as a top four seed, receiving a bye through the first two rounds.

They won their first game in a 59-52 back and forth battle against Carlmont High School, before falling short to Menlo Atherton in a 54-49 nailbiter in the semifinals. Their semifinal appearance earned the team a bid into the Division IV state championship playoffs as the eighth seed.

In the first round, a second half comeback fueled a two point win against the ninth seed Ripon. Next, the team went on the road to face number one seed Santa Teresa, and showed out in a dominant 15 point road victory. The run came to an end against Union Mine in the state quarterfinals, ending a successful season.

Starters Jorell Clark, Riley Yuen, Gavin Haase, and Alaap Nair were recognized as all-league players.

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Photos courtesy of Karen Ambrose Hickey

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About the Contributors
Tyler Frick
Tyler Frick, Editor-in-Chief
Hello! I'm Tyler, Editor-in-Chief for Viking in 2023-24. I am a varsity basketball player for Paly. Favorite sports moment: Christian McCaffrey's Rose Bowl demolition of Iowa.
Max Merkel, Staff Writer

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