SUNSET TENNIS: Undefeated Palo Verde boys, girls breeze to titles

Palo Verde’s girls tennis team was tired of narrow losses in the Sunset Region final.

Three years of frustration came out in Saturday’s opening round.

The Panthers won five of the six first-round matches en route to an 11-7 victory over Bishop Gorman in the Sunset final at Darling Tennis Center. Palo Verde (15-0) advanced to the state tournament, which begins Oct. 24. Gorman (13-1) will meet Green Valley in a play-in match for the final state berth on Oct. 21.

“Our girls were mentally tough, and they were ready to go,” Palo Verde coach Jane Centrella said. “We have a great group of girls, very hard working, very dedicated.”

Palo Verde dropped 10-8 decisions to the Gaels in each of the past two Sunset finals and fell to The Meadows 13-5 in the 2010 region title match. The early lead Saturday helped the Panthers (15-0) relax.

“That really set the tone,” Centrella said.

Freshmen Annie Walker and Abby Lewis each won in singles, and the Panthers’ doubles teams of Sophie Henderson and Michaela Jackson, Tia Okana and Kristen Newell, and Abby Till and Alissa Till each collected a victory to give Palo Verde the early breathing room.

“There was still pressure after the first round, but it definitely helped us relax,” sophomore No. 1 singles player Chloe Henderson said.

The teams split their second-round sets as Palo Verde held an 8-4 lead after two rounds, and Okana and Newell, who finished 3-0 in doubles, secured the clinching 10th point in their final set.

Chloe Henderson and Walker each went 2-1 in singles, and Sophie Henderson and Jackson were 2-1 in doubles for Palo Verde, which got at least one point from every position in the lineup.

“We have a lot of good players,” Chloe Henderson said. “We definitely push each other every day, and we support each other.”


Bishop Gorman’s boys showed signs of encouragement in the first round.

Palo Verde made sure those signs didn’t stay around long.

The Panthers turned a 4-2 first-round edge into an unsurmountable 10-2 advantage after two rounds and downed the Gaels 14-4 in the Sunset Region final at Darling Tennis Center.

Palo Verde (15-0) won its fifth straight region title and will participate in the state tournament, which begins Oct. 24. Bishop Gorman (13-1) will face Liberty in a play-in match on Oct. 21 for the final state berth.

“In the second round, we were more loose, more confident, and we had some good matchups for us in the second round,” Palo Verde coach Zach Brandt said.

The Panthers won two singles and two doubles sets in the opening round to grab the early lead and then stepped on the gas in the second round.

Zack Surmacz, Rhett Bossung and Kota Cook dropped a total of seven games in winning their second-round sets in singles. The Panthers’ doubles teams of Conor Safbom and Eli Deville, Josh Kaplan and Teijiro Nishimura, and Jordan Baduria and Brandon Sulzberg also surrendered just seven games in the second round.

“We talk in practice about outworking our opponent, work harder in each match,” Brandt said. “In the second round, you saw that work ethic come out.”

Surmacz finished 3-0 in singles, and Cook and Bossung each went 2-1 in singles. Safbom and Deville were 3-0 in doubles. Baduria and Sulzberg were 2-0 in doubles.

“Zack is always rock solid,” Brandt said. “Kota came up huge, and Rhett was like a warrior. His back was tight, and he just battled it out.”

Dylan Leavitt was 2-1 in singles for the Gaels, who last advanced to the state tournament in 2003.