There’s something special going on with the Rio Mesa High boys’ tennis team.
The Spartans dominated foes, going 19-1 overall and 8-0 in the Pacific View League. They sent two singles players—senior Anthony Baltazar and sophomore Zack Derse—to the title match of the league championships. The team also occupied both spots in the doubles finals.
“I was surprised it was all Rio Mesa,” Baltazar said. “We played some pretty tough teams, but I was glad we made it to the end.”
The Spartans extended their magical season by topping Vista Murrieta 11-7 on Wednesday in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs. It was the 650th career victory, among both boys’ and girls’ tennis teams, for head coach Steve Worthington. The Spartans face Valencia at 3 p.m. today at home.
“We knew we were going to have a great season, but 19-1 is incredible,” Worthington said. “How can we not be happy with our season? We have a great record, a great group of kids and we’re in the playoffs.”
The complete domination of Pacific View foes surprised some Spartans, but the talent in the lineup was always undisputable.
Baltazar and Derse, the team’s No. 1 and 2 singles players, respectively, went undefeated in league matches before racing to face each other in the finals. Baltazar claimed the crown, but Derse has two more years to work his way to the top.
Worthington said the players’ work ethic elevates them to another level on the court.
“Hard work works for both of these kids,” he said of Baltazar and Derse. “They’re both undefeated in league, and they had to play each other in the league final. Anthony (Baltazar) just happened to come out on top.”
Baltazar said he felt some pressure leading the Spartans this season.
“A lot of people were expecting a lot of me coming into this year,” the senior said. “I just told everyone I’d try my best. I guess the outcome was really good for me.”
Derse said he didn’t expect to remain undefeated after a tough test against Oxnard during Rio Mesa’s second league match on April 7.
“ There were some close matches, but I’m overall proud of how I’ve played,” Derse said. “I just tried to work hard and I ended up (in the league finals).”
The sophomore said practicing with Baltazar helped take his game to new heights.
“It’s really nice to have a hitting partner who’s No. 1 in the league,” he said. “It’s fun to hit with him. You get a lot better playing with him.”
Estevan Prado, a freshman, thrived as Rio Mesa’s No. 3 singles player.
The Spartans’top doubles team of junior Daniel Munoz and senior Julian Chow made quick work of foes en route to winning the league’s doubles title over their teammates, senior Miguel Undurraga and sophomore J.P. Tamayo.
Munoz and Chow, who have played together for three seasons, lost in the doubles finals at the 2014 league tournament. Munoz said he’s happy Chow can walk at graduation with a title in his pocket.
“I just wanted to do my best and try and win league,” Munoz said. “Next year, it’s the same mindset.”
Chow said he’s elated to fi- nally take the league’s top spot.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It felt great to win it this year. It’s been amazing playing with Daniel. He’s such a great player.”
Tamayo will be back next season for another shot at the crown.
Undurraga, who was chosen as the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce’s Youth of the Year in 2014, will attend Harvard University next year. Undurraga is a member of mock trial and academic decathlon teams, and he oversees two student-run organizations, First Chapter and Junior State of America.
Junior Victor Prado, the older brother of Estevan Prado, and sophomore Jorge Cervantes boost the Spartans’ doubles lineup.
Worthington, who’s led the Spartans since 1993, said he’s pleased with his team’s performance and proud of the effort they’ve put in all season.
“It’s never about the winning,” Worthington said. “We always say winning is the goal, but it’s not a priority. When we walk off the court, I want the kids to feel like they played well.”
Rio Mesa in a nutshell
• Steve Worthington
• Anthony Baltazar
• Zack Derse
• Estevan Prado
• Julian Chow and Daniel
• Miguel Undurraga and
• Victor Prado and
• 19-1 overall, 8-0 in the
Pacific View League
• Rio Mesa vs. Valencia at
3 p.m. today at RMHS