Seniors Penelope Penn-Patterson and Ellen Cho have first-hand knowledge of how close the Menlo School girls tennis team came to getting its state record-winning streak completed when both were rookies in 2016.
Each was part of a double team that rallied from a deficit to win in 4-3 decisions in their two meetings with West Bay Athletic League rival Sacred Heart Prep, then led by Sara Choy, now another at Stanford.
When the Knights enter the Central Coast Section team tournament beginning Monday, they can breathe easy by knowing the stripe, now at 266 games, remains intact throughout their high school careers.
Senior Charlotte Lee, who also competes on Menlo's athletics team, could very well have been on that SHP team, but chose to go a different route. As part of triplets, she decided to attend Menlo over SHP, where her sister runs cross country and brother plays soccer. Lee saw his brother play for the first time in the Valpo Bowl Friday night.
Bill Shine has built a powerhouse in both girls and boys tennis. The boys have a similar line in the spring. Shine has won over 1,000 matches overall. The Menlo girls have won 26 consecutive league titles, 34 overall dating to 1982.
"It's amazing to me to be a part of it all," Cho said. "It's incredible what Bill has built here and how he brought Menlo to one of the big names in teams."
Menlo has won nine CCS titles since 1997 and six NorCal titles. The Knights last won a CCS title in 2015, the year before the current seniors arrived at Menlo.
"The biggest thing is Bill," Lee said. "He's such an icon. She's an amazing coach and he's also an amazing person. He's so well-known. Sometimes when I talk to somebody about playing tennis at Menlo, it's & # 39; Oh wow, Bill. Shine. & # 39; He has a great reputation. "
What Shine has managed to achieve is possibly one of the most difficult. Tennis is one of the few sports that pits everyone in the section against each other. There are no divisions.
"It's a big deal," Shine said of the strip. "It's a tribute to the kids and how they work. It's different players every year and it's all the same department. Every year, the seniors set the example. They are taught about the culture and they keep doing it. It starts at the top and every year we have had great leaders. "
Menlo's reputation brings many interested students. Shine understands that people have heard a lot of good things about the program. He puts a tennis booth at the annual open house for prospective students.
"The school sells itself," Shine said.
Penn-Patterson has another take.
"I had planned to apply to many schools," she said. "I shadowed Menlo first, and when I met Bill, I never applied anywhere else. He was so welcoming and it felt like he brought you into a family and that's what I wanted to be a part of. It's always been a tight family. "
Cho attended Menlo Middle School, where Shine also coached. "He made fun of it," she said. “We all worked hard, we had fun, and we improved it. It was a P.E. class and you could do other sports, but I always have tennis.
When Penn-Patterson played for Sacred Heart Prep as a rookie, she didn't know much about the strip.
"He didn't tell us the strike was on the line, so it was no pressure," she said. "It was Sacred Heart Prep, our rivals. & # 39; We got this. & # 39; We didn't think of anything else."
Shine waited until after this season to tell the newcomers about the strip.
"He didn't want them to feel the extra pressure," Cho said. "It wasn't necessary. It's always about playing and practicing as hard as you can and having fun throughout the season."
Menlo (19-3) won the No. 1 seed for the CCS team tournament and has a first-round bye. The Knights are the winner of Monday's game between Gunn (11-3) and Westmont (11-6) on Tuesday at home.
Menlo is unbeaten against CCS this year, with wins over No. 2 seed St. Francis, No. 4 Palo Alto and No. 3 Cupertino included. The Knights have another goal.
"It would be so cool, especially for the seniors, to win it this season. We haven't had the No. 1 seed in the years we've been here."
“We just have to play like we’ve always played,” Penn-Patterson said. "There's no pressure. We keep playing as long as we can."