Smolko reaches NCS championship match

Lucas Smolko (left) after his NCS finals match in May 2023.

The Piedmont High School boys tennis team wrapped up another successful season in the NCS tournaments.

Lucas Smolko made it to the Division 2 championship match, falling there to University-San Francisco’s Gus Grumet, 6-3, 6-1 on May 16 at McKinleyville High School. Earlier in the day, Smolko defeated Alexander Steele of International-San Francisco in the semifinals in come-from-behind fashion, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.

“It was a great result,” said Smolko, a freshman. “I didn’t quite know what to expect being my first time at NCS.”

Smolko said he started playing when he was 2 or 3 years old. He has gradually gotten better over the years and loves the game. He said he had never faced Grumet before, although they had played in the same tournament a few times. Steele is a player he has faced before. He said he had won a match over Steele about a year ago.

“I usually start off matches a little slow,” Smolko said. “Went down 3-0 in the first but started to come back. I started to get a little bit more confident in my shots, using the wind to my advantage.”

On May 15, Smolko won his opening match over Bela Randles of Arcata, 6-1, 6-1. Then, he defeated Bishop O’Dowd’s Neo Chai in the quarterfinals, 6-3. 6-0.

Piedmont’s Ethan Pham also made the singles bracket. He fell to Lev Cohen of Convent & Stuart Hall-San Francisco, 6-2, 6-3.

In doubles, the Highlanders team of Arun Brahma and Monte Imburg fell in the opening round to Saahil Mishra and Este Liu of Lick-Wilmerding-San Francisco, 6-3, 6-1.

Ben Breber

On May 13, Piedmont’s team fell to eventual champion Branson-Ross in the NCS Division 2 playoffs, 5-2 at the College of Marin. Smolko won the No. 1 singles match over Jeffrey Huang, 7-5, 6-3. Ben Breber won at No. 2 over Max Goldman, 6-2, 1-6, 10-6.

Everything else went to the Bulls. Chase Hoeveler defeated Chris Li at No. 3, 6-0, 6-0. Ishwar Jayaraman beat Xiaowei Elias at No. 4, 6-1, 6-1.

In doubles, Tommy Higgins and Leighton Fraser downed Brahma and Imburg, 6-1, 6-1 in the No. 1 match. Pete and James Stovell beat Nick King and Graham Alban at No. 2, 6-1, 6-1. And Oliver Goldman and Andrew Peng defeated Nate Welch and Willie Tenney at No. 3, 6-0, 6-2.

Branson later defeated University in the finals. It was the Bulls first championship since 2013. Piedmont has won five titles.

The Highlanders finished the season with a 15-6 record.

Photos by Damin Esper

One thought on “Smolko reaches NCS championship match

  1. Absolutely awesome tennis season. So exciting to watch our Piedmont boys compete. Great job team and to the amazing coaches, Jim Landes and Corey Reich.

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