HIGH SCHOOLS / STEVE ELLING : Bryans Deliver Unexpected 1-2 Punch to Trigger Rio Mesa’s KO

Look at the bottom line. Maybe the baseline. Mike and Bob Bryan are early bloomers, but not because they are big boomers with 90-m.p.h. serves, guided missiles for backhands and top-spin passing shots like laser beams.

These twins are true teeny-boppers.

In fact, if most folks saw the tennis-playing pair tooling down the street, they’d be tempted to pat them on the head. The Rio Mesa High freshmen weigh about 190 pounds. . . . collectively.

“They’ve got some growing left to do,” said their father, Wayne, laughing.


But in terms of tennis, the boys already are giant-killers in the David-and-Goliath mold. Tuesday, the Bryans each won a singles match to help lead Rio Mesa to a 14-4 upset of Santa Barbara, ending the latter’s 191-match winning streak in Channel League play. It reportedly was the state’s longest league winning streak in any sport.

“We surprised ‘em,” Bob said. "(Their coach) was kinda shocked.”

No kidding. The Bryans weren’t officially added to the team until Monday, and the Santa Barbara contingent had no idea that the talented pair was lying in the weeds until it was ambush time.

“We kind of hid in the coach’s lounge right up until the lineups were being made,” Bob said.


The identical twins stand 5-foot-6 and weigh 95 pounds, but they cut a wide swath. Last summer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Bryan Bros. won the United States Tennis Assn. national doubles title for 14-year-olds.

They are considered among the nation’s best junior players and are expected to get bigger--both wear a size 10 1/2 shoe--and better. “They say they weigh 95 pounds?” Rio Mesa Coach Steve Worthington said. “Maybe with a soaking-wet beach towel wrapped around them.”

Most teams have tossed in the towel when facing Santa Barbara, and Rio Mesa (6-2, 4-2 in league meets) was almost another casualty. A few weeks back, in fact, the likelihood of the Bryans playing for Rio Mesa was slimmer than the pair’s waistline.

The Bryans practice from 2 to 6 p.m. daily at the Camarillo Racquet Club, where parents Wayne and Kathy are club pros, and have numerous tournament commitments throughout the country. Consequently, because of their inability to practice after school with the team, they were not expected to play for Rio Mesa.

Worthington, an English teacher at the school who once coached the girls’ tennis team, took over the team a few days before the season opener and welcomed the Bryans with open arms. The pair will play in selected matches when possible.

“I have no qualms about their schedule at all,” Worthington said. “I understand their commitment.”

Though the streak ended, Santa Barbara would like to add an asterisk. Worthington said the Dons left three top players behind, presumably because they didn’t anticipate much of a challenge. It was not the A Team. “Or even the A-minus,” Worthington conceded.

The teams play at Santa Barbara on April 30, when Worthington anticipates the full artillery and a probable Rio Mesa defeat. Until then, his team can ride high.


“You’ve seen it a thousand times,” Worthington said. “A team (such as Santa Barbara) will go 22-1 and nobody wants to talk about the 22 wins--they want to talk about the one loss. Right now, that’s Rio Mesa.”

Head games: The walls have ears.

And the walls have mouths.

The dugouts are only a few feet from home plate at most City Section baseball diamonds, which means that wagging tongues can be effective. On Tuesday, Taft designated hitter Justin Siegel had mixed results.

Did his chirping work? Yes, for a time.

Did it backfire? Unquestionably.

With a runner on first and Kennedy first baseman Jeff Tagliaferri at bat, Siegel took advantage of a lull in the game to get the batter’s attention.

Said Siegel as Tagliaferri stepped in: “Jeff, there are a couple of things you don’t wanna do here. You don’t want to strike out and you don’t want to hit into a double play. And most of all, you don’t want to be a rabbit (and pay attention to what I’m saying).”


Nonetheless, though he tried to ignore the mind games, Tagliaferri’s ears perked up. “I was thinking about it,” Tagliaferri said. “He got into my head a little.”

A split-second before a 2-and-2 pitch, Siegel again piped up: “Here comes that strikeout.”

Tagliaferri homered on the pitch to spark Kennedy to an 8-2 victory. Needless to say, as Tagliaferri crossed the plate, he gave Siegel a healthy verbal blast.

“He didn’t even look up,” Tagliaferri said.

Postponed: Kyle Carden was rained out Friday. Twice.

The Crespi outfielder went on a bicycle ride to Malibu after school, but rain ended the trip before the return segment was completed. Carden hitched a ride back to the Valley with a friend who lived near the beach.

He hopes there will be no hitch with his return to the baseball team.

The senior has been sidelined all season because of academic eligibility problems, which should finally be sorted out Monday, he said.

Final grades were due last week, but Carden had tests Friday that delayed the decision, he said. Carden must raise his grade-point average above the school minimum of 2.0.

“I’m almost positive I’ll be eligible,” Carden said.

As a junior at Crespi, Carden batted .361 and drove in 20 runs.

The addition of Carden should provide additional punch for Crespi (7-1), which suffered its lone loss to nationally ranked Millikan.