STATE BOYS: Palo Verde starts strong, claims fifth crown since ’04

RENO — Four state titles in the past six years wasn’t enough for Palo Verde’s boys tennis team.
The defending Class 4A state champions did just that Friday at the Caughlin Club.
Riding the momentum of some close early wins, the Panthers downed Coronado 13-5 in a rematch of last year’s state final that Palo Verde won, 10-8.
The state championship is the fifth since 2004 for Palo Verde and marked second time during that span that the Panthers have won back-to-back titles.
“Every year seems like a new experience even though we’ve won before,” Palo Verde coach Zach Brandt said. “It feels so good to get these guys to the end and accomplish their goal.”
That Panthers pulled out three matches by 6-4 scores and another 7-5 in the first two rounds, going 4-2 in each round to take an 8-4 advantage into the third round.
Pascal Nilsson’s 6-4 win over Coronado’s Sam Cohen and a 7-5 victory by Palo Verde’s Zach Bellon and Jeremy Mann over the Cougars’ Jon Berberich and Christian Pate helped the Panthers to a 4-2 first-round lead.
“That was a big turning point in the match,” Brandt said. “We envisioned the first round coming out 3-3, so to come out up 4-2 was crucial.”
In the second round, Hadrien Saperstein came back from a 4-1 deficit to beat Cassell King as Palo extended its lead.
“They played the close points a lot better than we did,” Coronado coach Luther Bohanan said. “We were up in some matches that we probably should have won, but today wasn’t the day.”
Before the match, Brandt touted his team’s balance as a possible advantage over Coronado, and the Panthers proved his point with six points in singles and seven in doubles.
“Everybody kept their focus and got the job done,” Brandt said.
Senior Fernando Sunago anchored Palo Verde’s singles play by going 3-0.
“He’s a very tough match for a lot of these kids,” Brandt said.
Palo Verde’s doubles teams of Bellon and Mann, and Tanner Berkabile and Ozzy Abraham both went 3-0.
Mitchell Smith was 2-1 in singles for Coronado.
“Every team has one or two good players, but this is a great team, a deep team,” said Sunago, who has helped Palo Verde to three state titles. “It’s not just one person, even cheering, it’s the whole team. This year was really special to me because this is it. It’s my last year.”
This was the third time in the past five years Palo Verde has beaten Coronado in the state championship match.

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