APTOS—The Aptos High boys’ tennis team went through a rough patch prior to the start of the season when head coach Rich Taylor took a leave of absence due to medical reasons.
Bennett Biscotti, a senior, said the skipper has been important in his life for the past four years, which is why they’ve dedicated this season to him.
“We’re just keeping Rich in our prayers and thoughts, and we’re always using him to push a little harder,” Biscotti said.
The Mariners used that inspiration to beat Soquel High, 4-3, on Tuesday, sweeping the season series and capturing their fifth-straight Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League regular season championship banner.
Aaron Buchanan and Heath Hegna both won their singles matches for Aptos, which improved to 10-0 in league play and finished the regular season with a 12-1 overall record.
“It’s a huge thing for me coming off of lacrosse and being able to join a sport, and to be with a team that is so competitive and willing to play everyday,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan (6-2, 6-4) and Hegna (6-4, 6-3) each won in two sets, helping the Mariners extend their unbeaten streak to 50-straight league matches.
“A special group of boys this year,” Aptos interim coach Sam Brown said.
The No. 1 doubles team of John McGowan and Jack Eldredge won their game in two sets (6-2, 6-4).
Andrew Morrissey and Jack Taylor won their No. 3 doubles game in two sets (6-1, 6-0), while Sean Spencer and Nick Hambright battled in a losing effort in their No. 2 doubles game (5-7, 6-3, 7-5).
Koosha Safari, the defending SCCAL singles champion, lost his No. 1 singles game in two sets (6-1, 6-4) to Soquel’s Jack Vaness.
Biscotti, a four-year veteran on the varsity team, lost his No. 2 singles game (6-3, 6-1).
“We’re always pretty confident coming into the season but we definitely don’t want to be overconfident,” Biscotti said. “Being at the top of the league right now is something we always want to be at and attain to stay at that high level at tennis.”
Brown, who has been an assistant coach for the past 10 years, took over the program after Taylor stepped down earlier this year.
Marc Godoy, head coach at Aptos Junior High, set aside some time to help Brown and the players.
Biscotti said he’s using Taylor’s absence as motivation to have a great senior year, especially after being able to have a full season compared to the abbreviated 2021 spring season.
“I’m really excited that we have another strong team this year,” Biscotti said. “A lot of guys who were here last year really, really improved, which has always made me happy and really proud that we have guys who are willing to come back and put more work in.
Biscotti said this season is all about team success and doing it for Taylor. Being able to compete in next week’s SCCAL individual tournament and earning a berth for the Central Coast Section team playoff tournament is just a bonus for Biscotti.
“[Players are] getting better and helping us win more,” he said.
Brown said they have other seniors on the roster but Biscotti and Buchanan have been strong leaders for the Mariners this season.
“As far as stepping up in a leadership role, Aaron and Bennett have been super,” Brown said.
After spending six years playing lacrosse, Buchanan joined the tennis team after the 2021 lacrosse season was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The transition from one sport to another wasn’t too difficult for the senior standout. He had experience playing with tennis instructors, who also happen to be his parents.
“This is the first time I’d ever play it competitively and I’ve just really enjoyed the feeling of being on a team, and being able to hit with my teammates regularly,” he said. “It really has been a great experience for me.”
Brown said Buchanan’s ability to adjust and his analytical approach to tennis has been fun to watch.
Brown also admires the way Buchanan can solve the puzzle of 20 different types of players he could run into at any time.
“He’s been an absolute rock for us on the court and as a teammate, and a leader,” Brown said.
Buchanan said prior to the season they thought they had a great shot of being one of the top teams in the SCCAL. This week they became league champions.
“I have complete faith in my teammates, I’ve seen them all play,” he said. “I know the level they can bring. So, I wouldn’t have been surprised either way where we ended up.”
Next up, both singles and doubles participants will compete in the SCCAL individuals tournament beginning Tuesday morning.
The Mariners will compete in the first round of the CCS team tournament on May 4.