Palo Verde, Bonanza to decide Sunset Region boys tennis title

This should seem awfully familiar.

Palo Verde vs. Bonanza to decide a berth in the state boys tennis tournament.

The two teams that have combined to win the last seven state titles meet again at 3 p.m. today at Darling Tennis Center to decide the Sunset Region championship.

“It’s unfair that only one team gets to move on at this point,” Bonanza coach Erik Davis said. “It’s a little disheartening that one of the two best teams will be out of the tournament.”

Because the state tournament will be held in the north this year, only the Sunset Region and Sunrise Region champion advance to state. In odd-numbered years, two teams from the same region in the south can qualify for state.

Neither the Bengals (11-0) nor the Panthers (13-0) have come close to sniffing defeat this year. Palo Verde’s narrowest win was an 11-7 decision against Southeast League champion Coronado. Bonanza’s was a 12-6 region semifinal win over Centennial on Tuesday.

“This is what we play for,” Palo Verde coach Zach Brandt said. “I wish we could play seven or eight times a year and play great matches like that. It helps you improve as a player.”

Palo Verde has won 55 consecutive matches, including defeating Bonanza 15-3 in last year’s Sunset Region final and 13-5 in the state title match.

The Panthers’ last loss was against Bonanza in the 2005 state title match.

“There is a little bit of pressure on us,” Brandt said. “On Friday, you have to come in with a game plan and stick to it.”

Palo Verde boasts two of the area’s top singles players in seniors Brandon Parker and Stan Breland. David Nichols, a senior, is a two-time state doubles champion.

Bonanza counters with 12 seniors, including the core of last year’s team. Aashish Daulat and Andrew Whiting won the state doubles crown last year. Tommy Lettero, Sean Lettero and Laurent Gontier have been nearly untouchable for most of the season.

“The match on Friday is what we’ve played all year long for,” Davis said. “It has kept the kids focused all year long.”

Coronado (11-2) will battle Foothill (10-1) for the Sunrise title, also at 3 p.m. at the Darling center.

The Cougars, who won the region crown last year, were 16-2 winners over the Falcons when the teams met at Coronado on Sept. 25.

“These kids have been there. They know how to perform under the pressure of a big match,” Coronado coach Luther Bohanan said. “I only lost two kids from last year’s team, and we picked up six good freshmen.”

Foothill is a bit of a surprise team but has found ways to win matches. The Falcons advanced by downing Silverado in a tiebreaker in a regional semifinal.

“I think our kids will go in with a little less pressure,” Foothill coach Mark Richards said. “We’ll be a little more relaxed and just go in and play.”

Palo Verde will bid for a Sunset sweep Friday as the Panthers girls (13-0) face three-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman (14-0) in the regional final at 6 p.m. Friday at the Darling center.

Gorman swept the singles matches en route to a 13-5 win over Durango in Wednesday’s semifinal. Palo Verde advanced with a 15-3 rout of Bonanza.

In the Sunrise Region, Silverado (11-1) and Green Valley (9-3) will battle for a state berth, also at 6 p.m. Friday at the Darling center.

Silverado swept the singles matches Wednesday en route to knocking off top-seeded Coronado. Green Valley advanced with an 11-7 win over Basic.

Green Valley was an 11-7 winner over the Skyhawks when the teams met in a Southeast League match on Oct. 2.