Wildcats’ Tennis Season ends against Santa Margarita

Sophomore Noah Morrow hits a forehand in his 6-1 win.

West Ranch boys’ varsity tennis showed persistence and resilience throughout its quarterfinal match against the Santa Margarita Eagles on Monday, but ultimately came up short, ending its longest CIF playoff run in West Ranch history.

The Wildcats were edged 8 sets to 10 by the first-seeded Eagles – arguably one of the most talented teams in the state.

The Wildcats single players each won 2 sets: sophomore Noah Morrow went 6-1 and 6-2, sophomore Quincy Walter-Eze 6-0 and 6-2, and senior Chris Gaw 6-4 and 6-1.

The three West Ranch doubles teams struggled, managing to win only 2 sets, courtesy of Justin Lin and Jake Anderson and Foothill League champs Parker McBride and Davey Woodland.

“I honestly think that we all played to the best of our abilities today, even though we couldn’t pull out the win against Santa Margarita,” said junior doubles starter and captain Ruben Banerjee. “You have to give them a ton of credit; they’re the number one seed for a reason, but I don’t think we shied away from the challenge.

“There are also definitely things that we wish we could have another shot at, of course. We had a lot of missed opportunities today that we usually capitalize on, and that could have made the difference.”

“We played our hearts out, and I can’t ask for more from the guys,” said senior singles starter and captain Chris Gaw. “Our goal was to go out there and to be able to walk off the courts happy with the results – win or lose – and the only way we could do that is if we knew that we had played our game and done everything we could, and that’s what happened.”

In a highly competitive Division II of the Southern Section playoffs, the Wildcats were surprisingly given the eighth seed, despite the unyielding, unprecedented dominance they displayed over the course of the regular season.

West Ranch walked away with an unblemished 10-0 record in the Foothill League, a remarkable 16-2 record overall amidst a tough schedule, and a second consecutive Foothill League title. As mentioned earlier, the quarterfinals they played in this past Monday represented the farthest the team has gone in school history.

This is barely the beginning for the Wildcats. With only one senior starter graduating, the Wildcats have a unbelievable potential for even more success in the next few years.

Morrow and Walter-Eze, West Ranch’s 1-2 singles punch, are only sophomores. McBride and Woodland won the Foothill League doubles title this year as freshmen. The core of junior players enters next season with two to three years of high-level varsity experience, featuring Banerjee, Lin, Nikhil Bhumralkar, and Jake Hettinger.

But for the one graduating senior starter, captain Chris Gaw, the end is bittersweet.

“I’ve seen our team set two major goals in my high school career.  Last year it was to win league, this year was to get to quarter finals. Both goals were something West Ranch had not yet achieved, and to be able to be a part of making those goals a reality has been an honor.

“I’ll miss the feeling of being on a team the most; we weren’t just a team but a family. From the days I stepped on the court as a freshman to my final match today as a senior, I have never felt unwelcome here. We have a chemistry and a passion that I haven’t seen in any other team we have played.

“We all love each other and we all love the game, and I’m going to miss being able to practice, compete, and hang out with these guys almost everyday. From the bottom of my heart, I love West Ranch tennis.”