Varsity Boys’ Tennis trounces Tam in MCAL championship

On Friday, April 29 Redwood athletes forcefully swung their rackets, overwhelming their opponents with meticulous technique in an electric atmosphere on their home court. With one of the biggest crowds of the year cheering them on, the varsity boys’ tennis team beat Tamalpais High School (Tam) in the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) championship by a score of 5-2, ending the regular season with a win and giving the team a shot in North Coast Section (NCS) playoffs. Head coach Craig Flax was very pleased with the win, noting the team’s improvement as a key point of their success. 

“It was one of the top two most satisfying wins in my career as a coach,” Flax said. “The team has really improved throughout the year. … To see that kind of improvement during a season is rare, and culminating with a victory over our rivals is always a nice thing.”

Players competed in four singles matches and three doubles matches throughout the late afternoon, and Redwood won in all but two doubles matches. Senior Charlie Boyden explained that their opponent attempted to establish strength against Redwood by placing their best players in the doubles matches. 

“The way that Tam stacked their lineup [is] they put all of their good players at doubles, so I had to play against a low [ranked] doubles player at number two singles,” Boyden said. 

Boyden blew through his opponent with a 6-0 score in both sets, securing a win in the number two singles spot, the second best ranking in the singles category of the team. Shortly after, junior and number one singles player Liam Carpenter triumphed in a close match against the number one player at Tam, senior Carson Harrel. Carpenter commented on his satisfaction after the match and emphasized the success of the number one doubles team, juniors Jackson Bramlette and Jackson Sichel.

“I lost in a tough match before, so it feels good to get a pretty convincing win,” Carpenter said. “In all of the important matches we were just playing really well, especially in one doubles with both Jacksons. I felt like our team was connecting a lot.”

Boyden also praised the number one doubles team for taking on a challenge in one of the most significant matches of the season. 

“Kudos to Jackson Bramlette and Jackson Sichel for taking over number one doubles,” Boyden said. “Going into the match they were playing against two really good doubles players, but our Jacksons were just able to stay calm and crush them. They never played together before, and they played really well.”

In tennis, players are matched up based on their skill level, and players on the same team compete in challenge matches to see who gets the top spot. In the first half of the season, Boyden held the number one spot on the team, but he recently lost to Carpenter in a challenge match. While he would have wanted to finish the season at number one, Boyden applauds Carpenter for his improvement and competitiveness. 

“[Carpenter] was fifth in the country at one point for [age groups] 12s and 14s, and he’s getting back up there,” Boyden said. “I honestly think that he deserves it, and he’s playing really well.”

Carpenter took a short break from competitive tennis during COVID-19 lockdowns, but he is now 12-3 since he took over the number one spot. He attributes this success to the excitement he rekindled for tennis, and he says that watching Boyden throughout the years has pushed him to strengthen his own skills, especially after Boyden’s commitment to Whitman College, a division III tennis program.

“Charlie getting into Whitman was really big for him. His aggression on the court and his positive energy really motivates me,” Carpenter said.

Flax has seen significant improvement from both Boyden and Carpenter, demonstrating confidence in their potential at Redwood and beyond. 

“Charlie’s tennis has improved greatly every year. He has always had some difficulties closing out matches. He’ll have a really strong first set, but then he has a bit of a mental block sometimes. He seems to have really overcome that in the last several weeks,” Flax said. “[Liam Carpenter] has started to really believe in himself again, and it’s evident in the way he steamrolled Carson yesterday, and Carson is a very strong player.”

Given this development, Boyden believes the team is set up for success going into NCS and state playoffs. 

“I think we have really improved our depth. Our doubles are all gelling and playing super well, Liam is getting his confidence back again, and I haven’t lost a match at number two singles,” Boyden said. “We’re looking pretty good. I think we can qualify for state and do well in NCS.”

Boyden and Carpenter will represent Redwood as doubles teammates in NCS on May 6. Flax trusts that the team’s hard work this year will pay off in the postseason, noting how much they have improved from  previous tournaments against strong teams from across the state.  

“Right now, the sky’s the limit for this squad,” Flax said. “I feel really confident that if the team plays their best we can hang with anybody.”