On this day four years ago, the Pali High Boys Tennis Team was No. 1
Palisades High’s boys tennis program has enjoyed its share of success over the years, but perhaps its finest hour came on March 25, 2017 in Newport Beach.
It was on that date the Dolphins staked their claim as not only the best team in the City or even California, but the entire country, by winning the High School All-American Invitational for the first time. Palisades had lost in the finals to Torrey Pines a year before and was determined not to settle for second place this time. After losing two of the three doubles sets in the championship match the Dolphins justified their No. 1 seed by taking five of six singles pro sets to beat Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, 6-3.
Sophomore Henry Lovett earned the clinching point in the best-of-nine format with an 8-3 victory in the No. 5 spot. Palisades was led by brothers Jake and RJ Sands, who both made the All-Tournament team. Jake (now a junior on the men’s team at USC), shook off an early break to beat Vanderbilt commit Adam Sraberg 8-4 at No. 1 singles while RJ (who went on to play at Penn) beat fellow senior Jed Kronenberg 8-1 at the No. 2 spot. UCLA signee Lucas Bellamy beat Harvard-Westlake’s Stanley Morris 8-2 at the No. 3 spot and Diego Huttepain, who partnered with Lovett to win his second City doubles titl
e the previous spring, won the last three games to top David Arkow 8-6 at No. 4.
Bellamy and RJ Sands won 8-3 at No. 2 doubles, but the Wolverines won the other two matches to take a 2-1 lead heading to singles.
The field featured 16 teams from California and five other states.The undefeated Dolphins opened the two-day event with 6-2 triumphs over Sage Hill of Newport Coast and Greenhill of Addison, Texas. The semifinals pitted them against Menlo of Atherton, a perennial Northern California power, and once again Palisades prevailed by a 6-2 score.
Bud Kling, who took over the program in 1979 and is still the coach in 2021, called the accomplishment one of the highlights of his career and counted the 2017 team among his best. Palisades went on to win its ninth straight City title and finished 30-1, losing in the SoCal regional semifinals.
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