Lowell High School senior Nathaniel Jee had just put the finishing touches on a 6-3, 6-1 victory at No. 4 singles over Lincoln's Benge Feng when he discovered that he'd clinched the Academic Athletic Association-San Francisco Section title for his team.
It was the second year in a row that Jee had sealed a city championship for the Cardinals.
"It was a nice surprise," said Jee, still flush from his win. "It feels pretty good."
With their 5-1 team victory at Golden Gate Park Tennis Courts (the final match between Lowell's Sam Tick-Ricker and Lincoln's Thompson Hui at No. 2 singles was called a draw when a fine mist began falling during the third set), the Cardinals have now won 23 of the last 24 AAA boys' varsity tennis team titles. Lincoln interrupted the streak with a win in 2008.
"It's a nice end-of-season thing for the guys," Lowell coach Bryan Lee said. "They work so hard during the regular season, so to peak at the right time is really cool."
The two teams entered the championship with matching 7-1 league records. They'd split their regular-season meetings, with both matches ending 4-3.
Lowell reeled off five consecutive wins to begin play on Thursday, including Jee's clincher. Nick Haddad and Marcelo Stienkemper, fresh off their second consecutive victory in the AAA doubles competition, defeated Beagan Nguy and Maung Yan Naung 6-7, 6-2, 6-3.
Freshman Maxwell Ho was particularly impressive for the Cardinals at No. 3 singles, where he dismantled Philip Wang 6-1, 6-0. Ho mixed power with placement, spraying shots and volleys all over the court. "Max has been playing really, really solid tennis for us the whole year," Lee said. "He's got a big forehand and a big serve, and he used them really well today. At times, he plays a little too passively, but against Wang he was attacking the ball."
Kameron Hsuing nabbed the lone victory for the Mustangs, but it came in thrilling fashion at No. 1 singles for the sophomore. Hsuing took down this year's AAA singles champion, Lowell junior David Mai, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6.
"We've only got one senior graduating," said Lincoln coach Max Van Engers, who praised Hsuing's shot selection against Mai. "I feel that we're a team on the rise. I think we've really got a shot to win the city title next year."
Now qualified for NorCal play, Lowell enjoys a two-week respite before that competition begins.
"We're feeling really good about NorCal," Lee said. "We usually struggle during our non-league matches, but this year we had a winning record of 4-3. We beat some of the teams we haven't beat in a long time. We're playing really good tennis right now."