Alone at the top and happy about it — that’s the Maria Carrillo boys tennis team.
After sharing the North Bay League title with Cardinal Newman last season — only to see the automatic bid to the North Coast Section tournament slip away in a 4-3 playoff loss to the Cardinals — the Pumas are sole champs this season and on their way to the postseason en masse.
“Not being able to go to NCS, being that close, it was a struggle,” said sophomore Jim Klyce, the Pumas’ No. 1 player and son of coach Bob Klyce. “It’s a big deal to us.”
They have stormed through the regular season like it’s a big deal to reach the team berth for the postseason. With their incredibly deep roster, they have simply dominated.
The Pumas have dropped just four matches out of 74 league contests this season.
Their 23-player roster is solid from top to bottom.
So much so that it’s almost a problem.
“We could have two strong teams,” Bob Klyce said. “It’s hard to keep those guys satisfied. We have so many bodies.”
In addition to deep, the Pumas are young.
All of their top guys are underclassmen: Jim Klyce, Dat Tran, Cadell Traya, Kayden Traya and Matthew Guangco. In fact, only Tran and Guangco are juniors while Klyce and Kayden Traya are sophomores, and Cadell Traya is a freshman.
These Pumas will likely make trouble for the NBL for a few years.
So deep is the team that Carrillo’s doubles pairs would easily be top of the ladder elsewhere.
“At another school, I might be a singles player,” said sophomore Vishnu Pillai, part of the Pumas’ No. 2 doubles tandem. “But I’m fine with it. I kind of accept it since it’s a team effort … morale is high.”
Coach Klyce said the improvement of his doubles teams has been the difference this season. The Pumas have long had a strong contingent of singles stars, but with a roster deep with young talent, the doubles teams are coming on strong — helping the Pumas run to an undefeated league record. The team’s only losses of the season came in their early matches against Tamalpais and Redwood to open the season.
But Klyce, a tennis pro, knows that those contests are how teams get better.
His schedule for next season already includes more non-league matches.
In addition to rematches with Tam and Redwood, he’s got verbal commitments from San Rafael, Marin Academy and Branson. The Pumas have also added Sonoma County League foes Petaluma and Sonoma Valley.
In the meantime, he’s got his Pumas focused on the NBL singles playoffs Friday and the doubles playoffs next week, as well as prepping the team to compete against an as-yet-unnamed foe in the opening round of the NCS tournament.
For a team that has rarely been challenged this season, things are about to get real.
The NBL playoffs starting Friday at 1 p.m. at Santa Rosa High will likely produce some of the best tennis of the season.
Rancho Cotate sophomore Joshua Wong comes in clearly as the top dog.