Palo Verde boys tennis notches 50th consecutive victory

Brandon Parker walked nonchalantly from one court to the next, glancing at teammates in between his quick 6-0 sets as if to stay entertained.

Outside the courts, his Palo Verde boys tennis teammates cracked jokes amongst each other and even with coach Zach Brandt.

The Panthers made no big production out of their 50th straight victory Tuesday, a 16-2 Northwest League win over visiting Arbor View. Instead, they enjoyed a happy-go-lucky atmosphere and left without even celebrating.

“I definitely know that when the kids have more fun, they play more relaxed,” Brandt said. “When you tense up, your game’s going to spiral downward. I try to keep it as relaxed as possible.”

The Panthers (8-0, 6-0) had reason to relax, having not lost a set in the first two rounds Tuesday.

Parker, a senior whom Brandt called Palo Verde’s “foundation,” swept all three of his sets, 6-0.

The loose atmosphere is by design, Parker said.

“If someone’s having a bad day or a tough match, they can just kind of cool off with the rest of the team and go out and win their second round,” he said.

Palo Verde also got 2-0 performances from singles players Stan Breland (6-0, 6-0) and Fernando Sunago (6-2, 6-1).

In doubles, the Panthers’ David Nichols and Kamau Jackson won their two sets, 6-0, 6-1. Palo Verde’s Dillon Berkabile and Zach Bellon also went 2-0, winning 6-2, 6-0.

The only two points for Arbor View (6-2, 4-2) came from singles players Jeff Schuerman (6-1) and Austin Foytic (6-1) over Palo Verde substitutes.

“Palo’s in a different league than us, really,” Arbor View coach George Arizmendez said.

Still, the Aggies are in position to make a historic run, Arizmendez said.

“I would say we’re having probably the best season we’ve ever had at Arbor View,” he said. “We’ll make a better (postseason) run than we ever have.”

As for the Panthers, they still haven’t lost since 2005 — at the end of Parker’s freshman season — to eventual state champion Bonanza.

And Parker has been there ever since, watching his team win back-to-back state titles to make it three in the past four years.

“It’s pretty cool to be part of a team that’s been that successful,” said Parker, last year’s Sunset Region singles champion. “It’s been a fun ride.”

Brandt said an understated ingredient to the winning streak is that most of his players are one-sport athletes.

“They just dedicate their entire lives, basically, to tennis,” he said. “A lot of these kids, that’s all they do.”

Despite the laid-back surroundings the Panthers try to maintain, there have been times the winning streak has been in peril — like an 11-7 win at Coronado on Sept. 4.

“That’s been the most difficult thing we’ve overcome as a team, coming out every day ready to play,” Parker said. “All it takes is one day to be off and that streak is done.”