Piedmont High School tennis had plenty to celebrate during the 2013-14 school year, as both the girls and boys teams won North Coast Section team titles.
On June 16, the City of Piedmont official recognized both teams with proclamations given at the start of the evening's city council meeting.
"I would like to congratulate all of the team members for their outstanding and excellent achievement," said Piedmont Mayor Margaret Fujioka. "I would also like to congratulate coaches Corey Reich and Neil Rothenberg."
Co-captains Saya Leist and Samantha Lai, who both graduated last week, accepted the girls team proclamation, with Fujioka declaring "June 16, 2014 as women's tennis team day in the City of Piedmont."
Kenji Ky-Fries, one of the Highlanders' now-graduated tri-captains for 2014, and Daniel Lin, slated to become a captain next year, accepted for the boys, whose proclamation was officially dated June 8, 2014.
"But you can have this day as well," Fujioka quipped.
Quality tennis has become a Piedmont High staple through the years. The girls, who play in the fall, won all of their league dual matches en route to a 25-3 overall finish and their second NCS team title (the first was in 1998, the inaugural year of the NCS team tournament). The Highlanders, who beat Branson-Ross for the NCS Division II title, also were the first girls high school team to post a 25-win season.
Piedmont's boys have been nothing but consistent through the years. This spring marked the sixth consecutive time that the Highlanders have reached the NCS final. Their championship also was their third title in that span, with the Highlanders having previously won in 2009 and 2012.
"It was an amazing year for both teams," Rothenberg said. "Both the men's and women's beat our rivals from Branson, which is really good for us."
Piedmont beat Branson, 6-1, for the girls title on Nov. 16.
"We had a really great season," said Lai, who will attend Cal in the fall. "I'm really glad I got to finish out my senior year with such a great team -- and we really had a great team. I was co-captain with Saya Leist. We'd been on the team since we were freshmen, and it was nice to finish out with her."
Piedmont's boys title, won 4-3 against Branson on May 17, proved a bit harder to earn.
Ultimately, this Division II title came down to the No. 1 doubles match, where Highlanders sophomores Brian Lai and Ricky Peters won six consecutive points to erase a 4-1 deficit and prevail in a tie-breaker.
At the start of the season, however, the Highlanders had a difficult time seeing themselves playing for another title.
"Going into the year, I didn't think we'd get as far as we did," Lin said of his team, which finished 20-4-1 overall. "Last year, we were pretty deep, but we lost six seniors. Through hard work and a lot of teamwork we got (to NCS again). Last year, we lost to Branson in the finals, this year, we beat them."
Piedmont overcame its challenges nicely.
"Since six seniors left, we had to develop our doubles ladder; that was our toughest challenge," Brian Lai said. "Most of the doubles players were freshmen; they had to learn teamwork. At the beginning of the season, I didn't think we could get this far, but through hard work, we did."
Coming together as a team proved vital to both the girls and boys.
"It takes more than one player," Rothenberg said. "We just got amazing finishes on both teams."
For Piedmont High tennis -- as with all other high schools -- players graduate and new players enter the program. But for the Highlanders, a consistent quality reigns.
"We have a legacy in Piedmont," Rothenberg said. "We always have a pool of tennis players coming up. I keep tabs on them, sometimes even as under-10s. They tend to network themselves. We also have some really great teaching pros -- Claremont Country Club, Berkeley Tennis Club and Oakland Hills Tennis Club."
A nurturing tennis environment, for sure. But credit the players for getting the most from their lessons.
"(The high school players) have so much fun that it's kind of contagious," Rothenberg said, " and they pass it off to the next classes coming in."
For the Highlanders, both the boys and girls enjoyed memorable tennis seasons in the 2013-14 school year. Given the quality of youth programs in the area, look for that success to continue, perhaps leading to even more city proclamations.
Chelsea Gilliland Fr.
Emily Kellehe Jr.
Samantha Lai (C) Sr.
Sophia Landes Fr.
Saya Leist (C) Sr.
Hanna Marcus Fr.
Claire O'Connor Jr.
Tess Olcott Soph.
Cecilia Soghikian Jr.
Elizabeth Sweeney Jr.
Madison Tenney Soph.
Kaelli Thiel Soph.
Sydney Williams Jr.
Katie Yu Soph.