Daly Meinert's No. 3 seed made perfect sense before the start of the Central Section individual boys tennis playoffs.
The Clovis North High freshman, after all, was handed his only loss of the season against section opposition by second-seeded Dylan Simonsen of Garces.
And Simonsen had split a pair of matches against East-Bakersfield's Kaleb Johnson, who was given the top seed.
Meinert, however, rendered the seedings meaningless by tearing through Simonsen and Johnson in matches that lasted less than an hour each en route to becoming the Broncos' first individual singles champion and being named The Bee's Player of the Year.
"I told myself I could beat them and they are not much better than me," Meinert said. "I just trained really hard. I didn't let their seeds or ranking get in my head. I just played the ball."
After struggling, by his own admission, to get through the quarterfinals May 16, Meinert returned to Hanford's Sierra Pacific High the next day determined to play better.
Meinert jumped in front of Simonsen 3-0 in the first set of their semifinal and cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win against the fellow freshman, avenging a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Simonsen at the Lynch Cup in Bakersfield in March.
"I never let my foot off the gas," Meinert said. "I stuck to my game plan and kept it going."
Meinert was even better in the final, rolling to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over the freshman Johnson, younger brother of two-time singles runner-up D.J. Johnson, to cap a 27-2 season.
"I expected a lot, but I didn't expect him to really destroy his competition," Clovis North coach Brad Fernandez said. "I certainly wasn't expecting to see what I saw at the Valley tournament.
"But he's just that good. The kid is a freak of nature."
He's also the son of a pair of former UCLA athletes. Meinert's mother, the former Allison Cooper, was an NCAA doubles champion in tennis, while his father, Stewart, played basketball for the Bruins.
Allison and Stewart have a 15-year-old son who, at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, already has size similar to top pros such as Rafael Nadal (6-1, 188) and Roger Federer (6-1, 187).
"He's not a typical freshman," Fernandez said. "When he's down, he finds a way to pick himself up. He's always positive when he's out there, and that's what makes him tough to beat.
"He lives and breathes tennis. He's constantly playing. His worth ethic is amazing for a young kid. He just wants to be the best."
A competitive player since the age of 11 who trains at Fresno's Stine 360 Academy, Meinert climbed the United States Tennis Association rankings to No. 35 in the nation and No. 3 in Northern California in the 14-and-under division before moving up an age bracket.
He's now ranked 300th nationally and No. 25 in Northern California -- in a points-based system -- among 16-and-unders.
His national stature begs the question, will Meinert eventually give up high school tennis to focus exclusively on USTA tournaments?
Not a chance, he says.
"After this year, I really want to play all four years," Meinert said. "It was an insanely enjoyable experience. The team environment is something you just don't get in a USTA tournament. I hope I can bring four titles to Clovis North."
Player of the Year: Daly Meinert
• Grade: Freshman
• School: Clovis North
• Qualifications: The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder who was seeded third became the Broncos' first Central Section individual singles champion with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over top-seeded Kaleb Johnson of East Bakersfield to cap a 27-2 season. Meinert was the Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year after going 10-0 in league singles matches. He avenged his only loss of the season against section opposition by defeating Garces' Dylan Simonsen 6-1, 6-0 in the section individual semifinals. Meinert also went 4-2 in doubles matches.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6103, firstname.lastname@example.org or @NickG_FB on Twitter.