The consistency of Kento Perera and the leadership of Morgan Mays will go down in the history of their schools’ tennis programs.
By winning four Channel League singles championships, Perera set a record that can never be broken — and daunting ever to be matched — at San Marcos High.
Mays was such an inspiration at UCSB that his coach, Marty Davis, announced that the Gaucho captain’s award will be renamed: “It’s going to be the Morgan Mays Captain’s Award forevermore.”
Perera swept through the CIF sectional singles at Cate School and will be competing in the Southern Section individual championships this weekend at the Seal Beach Tennis Center.
Mays saw his college career come to end in the NCAA doubles championships at Georgia last week. Pitted against the No. 2–ranked team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) in the opening round, the 35th-ranked Mays and Simon Freund won the first set, but Florida’s Alfredo Perez and Johannes Ingildsen clawed back in the second set and won the super tiebreaker. The scores were 4-6, 6-3, and 10-7.
“We left it all out there on the court,” Mays said. “It was tough to lose. We were as good as any team there. It was a historic season. UCSB tennis is heading toward national prominence.”
Mays, a California native who transferred from Wake Forest after his freshman year, helped the Gauchos win three consecutive Big West championships. He and Freund, a junior transfer from LSU, became the first UCSB doubles team to advance to the NCAA tournament since 1992.
Mays is the winner of the ITA’s Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for the Southwest Region. Majoring in film and media studies, he represented men’s tennis at UCSB’s Golden Eagle Awards Banquet, a 30-year tradition honoring Gaucho athletes who excel in the classroom.
Perera is also a high achiever academically. He has been admitted to Stanford University, where he plans to pursue an engineering degree. At UCSB last summer, he was an intern in a program overseen by Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics.
On high school tennis courts in Santa Barbara for the past four years, Perera has been quietly dominant. He lost just one set in league matches, when Miles Baldwin of Dos Pueblos took him down in a tiebreaker this year. “When you lose, you’re motivated to get better,” Perera said. He avenged the defeat by slamming Baldwin for his fourth league title, 6-0, 6-2.
In the CIF sectional, after a first-round bye, Perera toppled El Segundo’s Ignas Kirkla, 6-0, 6-0, and Parker McBride of West Ranch, 6-2, 6-0. “I’ll try my best,” he said of the upcoming championships. “Whoever shows up at their best will win.”
“Kento’s a great player,” said David Woodland, the Foothill League champion from West Ranch. “He’s got an explosive forehand. He moves well, makes it to a lot of balls, and works hard for every point. Mentally and physically, he’s so solid.”
Perera’s choice to attend Stanford was academic. He said he will try out for the Cardinal’s tennis team as a walk-on.
San Marcos also had the Channel League champion doubles team of Dominik Stefanov and Daniel Newton advance out of the CIF sectionals. … In singles, Cate senior Kevin Ha battled through six sets and two tiebreakers — outlasting DP’s Baldwin, 6-3, 2-6, 11-9 in the second round — but was swept in his final match. His brother, freshman Ethan Ha, went out in the second round. … UCSB also won the Big West women’s title, and the doubles team of Palina Dubavets and Melissa Baker made it to the NCAA championships. In the first round, they fell to the No. 16 team of Joana Valle Costa and Ryann Foster of LSU, 6-2, 7-5. Dubavets, a junior, will return next year. … The Gaucho men’s 2017 recruiting class was ranked No. 21 in the nation, not including Joseph Guillin, a transfer from the University of Florida. … Westmont College won the Golden State Athletic Conference men’s tennis championship for the first time since 1997. “This means a ton,” Coach Mark Basham said after the Warriors upset Arizona Christian. Their season ended with a loss to No. 5 Campbellsville in the second round of the NAIA tournament at Mobile, Alabama.
The thrumming notes of the 1969 hit “Spirit in the Sky” announced the approach of Hailee Rios to the plate. With a mighty swing of the bat, the San Marcos High senior put a softball in the sky, and it landed over the fence for a two-run homer. It was all the Royals needed in their 2-0 victory over the Beckman Patriots last Thursday, sending them into this week’s CIF Division 4 semifinals for the first time. Rios, who’s been recruited to put power into Fresno State’s lineup, also pitched five innings, allowing just one hit, and Aliyah Huerta-Leipner shut out the visitors the rest of the way.
By Paul Wellman