Daly Meinert could easily bypass high school tennis.
The college scholarship he’s likely to receive — Oregon and UCLA, among others, have shown interest — will be earned on the U.S. Tennis Association youth circuit, where he is No. 7 in Northern California and No. 68 nationally for boys 16 and younger.
But representing Clovis North and playing for his teammates is very important to the Broncos’ soon-to-be junior, who in his first two years of high school has won back-to-back Central Section singles championships.
“I grew up playing team sports and then got away from it,” said Meinert, The Bee’s repeat Boys Tennis Player of the Year. “USTA is all individual and you never get the sense of being on a team. But being on a team makes it a much more enjoyable experience. I love the atmosphere and being there for one another.
“The reason I went out and played every day is because of my team. They made it a fun. Without them, I wouldn’t have the inspiration to go out and fight every day to give my team some points.”
The last prominent nationally ranked player to pass through the Fresno area, Clovis West’s Billy Griffith, never played in the section individual tournament during his high school career because of conflicts with USTA events. Then he passed up playing his senior season and went on to Cal.
Meinert, however, has no plans to give up high school tennis.
In fact, he’d like to become the first four-time section singles champion since the tournament launched in 1915. Only El Diamamte’s Ryan Andrada (2010-12), Bakersfield’s David Couch (1974-76), Bakersfield’s Bill Davidson (1964-66) and Taft’s Jack Lynch (1930-32) have won three individual titles, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
“It would be cool to win another Valley championship or maybe even two if I play well,” said Meinert, 55-2 in singles during his career. “It’s definitely important to me. I won’t get upset if it doesn’t happen, but it’s on my mind when I step on the court, and it’s a goal I strive for. It would mean a lot.”
The top-seeded Meinert won his second title with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Bullard’s third-seeded Viran Batth. That capped a dominating run through the section tournament, with Meinert dropped just eight games while winning four matches in straight sets, including a 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Central Valley Christian’s fourth-seeded Bailey Gong in the semifinals.
Meinert finished the year 28-0 in singles and 5-1 in doubles.
Broncos coach Brad Fernandez said the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Meinert has made significant strides since his freshman season, when he went 27-2 and won his first singles title as a No. 3 seed with a 6-0, 6-0 breeze over East Bakersfield’s top-seeded Kaleb Johnson.
“I couldn’t believe how much better he got,” Fernandez said. “Physically, he got in shape a little more, grew into his body. And mentally, he got stronger. He just tore it up.”
Meinert’s next goal is helping Clovis North capture its first Division I team title. The Broncos were seeded third this year, losing 5-4 in the semifinals to No. 2 and defending section champion Bullard. They will feature one of the section’s top tandems next season with Meinert and senior Alex Tacescu at the top of the ladder.
“I really want to win a team championship,” Meinert said. “It would be amazing. I feel we definitely have the team to do it.”
The Bee’s Boys Tennis Player of the Year
- School: Clovis North
- Grade: Sophomore
- Qualifications: Improved on his breakout freshman season by going 28-0 in singles while winning second straight Central Section individual championship. The top-seeded Meinert beat No. 3 Viran Batth 6-1, 6-3 in the final, capping a 4-0 run through the tournament that saw him drop only eight games. He was 5-1 in doubles, and Broncos reached the Division I team semifinals. His two-year singles record is 55-2.
Doubles Team of the Year
SEAN LINDENAU AND ADDISON WEIL
- School: Clovis West
- Grade: Senior (Lindenau), junior (Weil)
- Qualifications: After finishing third last year, Lindenau and Weil joined forces again late in the season and went on a 10-0 roll together that culminated in a Central Section individual tournament championship. The second-seeded Golden Eagles duo rallied to defeat defending champions and top-seeded Nick Jaramishian and Lincoln Hoppe of Bullard 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Lindenau and Weil also won the Tri-River Athletic Conference title and were instrumental in helping Clovis West capture the Division I team title with wins at Nos. 1 and 3 singles, respectively. Lindenau scored the match’s first point by beating Hoppe 6-2, 6-2, and Weil upset Viran Batth, the No. 3 seed in the individual singles tournament, 6-4, 2-6 (11-9) for the clinching points in a 5-2, rain-shortened defeat of defending champ and second-seeded Bullard. Lindenau finished 15-1 in singles and 17-0 in doubles; Weil was 10-7 and 17-2.
- He said it: “They are very good strategically and they know how to play points. They are always in the best position on the court for every shot that’s going to be hit. And, they are very competitive. Sean is a bulldog. He’s always fired up and Addison plays into that and follows Sean’s lead. A lot of times you can have two good invididual players who don’t play well as a team, but they click.” — Clovis West coach Dan Gilbert.
Coach of the Year
- School: Clovis West
- Qualifications: In his first season as the boys head coach after four years with the girls junior varsity, the former manager at Sierra Tennis Club guided the Golden Eagles to a 20-5 record, their 18th Central Section Division I championship and a berth in the CIF Southern California Regional. With many of the key performers back for both teams, top-seeded Clovis West beat No. 2 Bullard 5-2 in a rain-shortened final that was a reversal of the Knights’ 6-3 win from 2014. The Golden Eagles helped secure homecourt advantage in the final with a 5-4, season-opening victory over the Knights before going on to win the Lynch Cup in Bakersfield (defeating eventual Nos. 3-4 seeds Clovis North and Stockdale), and tying for the Tri-River Athletic Conference title. Produced the section’s individual doubles champions (Addison Weil and Sean Lindenau) and third-place team (Robbie Ellis and Jacob Huls) and a singles quarterfinalist in Jacob Vander Beek.
Boys tennis All-Star team
- Viran Batth, senior, Bullard
- Connor Bennett, senior, Sanger
- Dillan Chongtoua, junior, Clovis East
- Daniel Gonzalez, freshman, Memorial
- Bailey Gong, junior, Central Valley Christian
- Robbie Ellis, junior, Clovis West
- Jacob Huls, senior, Clovis West
- Lincoln Hoppe, junior, Bullard
- Nick Jaramishian, junior, Bullard
- Ben Liang, senior, Buchanan
- Ricky Padilla, senior, Chowchilla
- Aaron Reimer, senior, Immanuel
- Alex Tacescu, junior, Clovis North
- Jacob Vander Beek, junior, Clovis West