The start of the Palm Desert boys’ tennis team’s match Wednesday against visiting Division 4 No. 2 Redlands looked shaky, especially for No. 1 singles player Connor Rapp.
Filling in for normal No. 1 Ryan Marker, the Aztecs’ singles player was fresh off a defeat in the finals of the Boys’ 16 Singles Division at the Ojai Tennis Tournament on Saturday.
Just minutes into his opening match against Redlands’ No. 1 singles player Patrick Cachapero, Rapp found himself down a break 2-0. He was yelling at himself and tapping his racket against the back fence, while Cachapero ripped off serves that Palm Desert coach Brian Jacobs estimated topped 100 mph, with a 90 mph forehand to follow.
But Rapp, a very vocal player, calmed himself down and regained his confidence, and he broke Cachapero back in a must-win game to even the match 5-all before taking the set in a tiebreaker he dominated 7-3.
With Rapp’s point, the Aztecs put Redlands down to a 5-1 deficit, giving them little chance for a comeback, and Division 1 No. 9 Palm Desert finished strong behind Rapp’s performance for a 15-3 match victory.
“Connor got a little hot at first and started getting down on himself, and he actually told me ‘What am I doing?’ He stopped and regrouped and composed himself, and that’s the mark of a smart player,” Jacobs said. “Last year, Connor probably would have lost that match because he would have been fighting his own battles with himself rather than his opponent on the court.”
Palm Desert No. 2 singles player Christian Kontaxis found himself in a similar position and ended up losing his first match to Redlands’ No. 2 singles player Brusl Libao 3-6, but he had the fight to take his next match 6-1, and finished off his day with a 6-0 win.
Rapp also responded to his early scare by taking his final two sets 6-2, 6-0. No. 3 singles player Ethan Weiss won his first match 6-4 but had to take a seat after his second due to illness, but in his spot, Kenneth Shapiro finished off Weiss’ slate with a 6-2 victory.
In doubles, No. 1 tandem Brad Cummins and Alex Kuperstein continued hot off their title at the Ojai tournament over the weekend in doubles, dropping just a single game in their three sets. As a whole, the Aztecs lost just one set in doubles Wednesday.
Jacobs, a first-year coach for the Aztecs, said he’s happy how he and his new players are starting to come together. Though the team hasn’t dropped a match yet, standing at 15-0, he senses a building of team camaraderie heading into DVL championships next week and the rounds of the CIF tournament to follow.
“These guys know how to play, and their reputation preceeds them, just the routine they have day in and day out at practice, I don’t have to do anything,” Jacobs said. “It’s just about tapping into that high quality of team camaraderie, and I think they have that. They want it.”