Reinstate girls’ tennis to upper league

Michelle Lum

I’ll be blunt: the Lynbrook girls’ tennis team has not had its best season. We’ve experienced loss after loss and come out facing the harsh reality that we will have to move down from the upper De Anza League to the lower El Camino League of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL) next season. But through these disappointments, we’ve stuck together and remained optimistic, working hard to improve with every match. Needless to say, I was outraged when I discovered that the Palo Alto High School (Paly) girls’ tennis team had used the widely discouraged strategy of stacking to ensure wins this season, and that instead of Paly, which would remain in the upper league, Lynbrook girls’ tennis would be moving down a league for the 2018 season.

At the end of the 2017 season, the girls’ tennis coaches of the SCVAL had to make the decision whether to drop Lynbrook or Paly from the upper league to the lower league. They had narrowed down from the seven total schools in the upper league to these two in particular as they had the worst league records among the schools in the upper league. In the end, they settled upon dropping Lynbrook to the lower league, keeping Paly in the upper league.

My immediate reaction to this news was, of course, one of disappointment. Although our team had worked extremely hard this season in the hopes of clinging onto our position in the upper league, we had failed. But there was nothing we could do about it, or so I thought.

Then, I recalled that the previous week, I had been browsing the website of Paly’s newspaper, The Campanile, and had come across a sports article summing up their girls’ tennis season. In it, Paly had attributed their wins this season to their strategy of stacking.

Upon realizing what I had read, I was incensed. As a backhanded method of winning, stacking is a generally frowned-upon practice in tennis. In a SCVAL tennis match, seven separate matches are actually played: first through fourth singles and first through third doubles. The best players start from the top singles positions, and then other players are placed further down the lineup based on their abilities. A team wins a match if it wins at least four out of the seven individual matches. In stacking, a team places better players in lower positions than those that they should actually be playing in a normal lineup. This is so that the team can ensure wins in lower positions — at the expense of sacrificing some of the higher-position matches — to guarantee at least a four to three win.

After I notified the Lynbrook varsity tennis coach about The Campanile article, this issue was brought to the attention of the SCVAL. As of now, however, it does not appear that much will come out of it, which does not sit well with me. Although stacking is not explicitly prohibited in the SCVAL by-laws for girls’ tennis, the SCVAL coaches had mutually agreed to not employ the unfair strategy in league matches. Since Paly used stacking to their advantage this season, it is probable that many of their wins were obtained through illegitimate means.

Stacking is not an acceptable method of winning tennis matches, and it should not be condoned by league authorities or any schools in the SCVAL, for that matter. Paly’s strategy of stacking to secure wins was incredibly unjust, and Lynbrook dropping from the upper league as a result of Paly’s inadmissible actions is an even greater injustice. The proper course of action for the SCVAL to take is to penalize Paly for displaying poor sportsmanship and blatantly breaking well-established rules of tennis etiquette, and, accordingly, reinstate Lynbrook girls’ tennis to the upper league.