If Palisades High seniors Eric Shiu and Scott Stokdyk had played a little more tennis together, the outcome of last Thursday's City 4-A individual doubles championship might have been different.
But they were teamed just three weeks ago and time ran out on them. North Hollywood's David Kaiden and Bruce Osterman captured the championship at the Racquet Centre in Studio City by dumping Shiu and Stokdyk, 6-3, 7-5.
Still, Shiu and Stokdyk took the loss, their final match as high school players, in laid back fashion. "We just had a lot of bad luck," Stokdyk said quietly. "It wasn't our day."
Shiu and Stokdyk played low-key tennis against Kaiden and Osterman, North Hollywood's second and fourth singles players.
That's their style, but against the more fiery North Hollywood team, Shiu and Stokdyk seemed to wilt after tying the second set at five games.
Palisades Coach Bud Kling, whose club corralled its 17th championship in 22 years last week, said the doubles match "was close, but they didn't look like they were in sync. They played a couple of points well but just didn't look natural, the way they've been playing all year."
Stokdyk and Shiu's inexperience showed against Kaiden and Osterman.
"We could have a played a few more sets together," Shiu admitted. "It would have helped."
"Sometimes we'd both go for a ball," added Stokdyk, "and we'd look at each other and just let it go by."
The mistakes hardly bothered the two seniors, however. Each is looking ahead to college, Shiu at Colorado and Stokdyk at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.
Kling said Shiu, a Santa Monica native, probably will play recreational tennis next year. Shiu, who said he's ready for a change, figures he might ski in Colorado.
Stokdyk said he will try to play tennis in college "but it may take me a couple of years to get started." Kling agrees.
"Scott's a raw talent," he said. "He's a big kid (6-4) with a big serve and he should get bigger. He's a smart kid, low-key and not very emotional.
"If he gets a little more emotional and really works in a college environment, he could be a very fine player."
Stokdyk transferred to Palisades in mid-semester from a town on the outskirts of Wichita, Kan.
"There's a lot more competition tennis-wise and it's a lot faster here in general," he said. "But I like California. I think I'll stay awhile."
Stokdyk began to shine at Palisades immediately. The Dolphins' winning tradition, intense coaching and team atmosphere were new to him, but he survived the organized practices filled with stretching and drilling and progressed quickly.
He opened the season on the junior varsity but moved up to third and then second doubles on varsity. As Kling put it, "The first couple of days he looked a little awkward, but he got a lot better in a hurry."
Stokdyk rarely showed emotion, and his coach was never sure if Stokdyk's mellow attitude was only skin deep.
Stokdyk and Shiu, however, seem to be nothing but cool, calm and collected. If that collective personality hurts their tennis, it's nothing to get excited about, according to Kling.
"They're not psychologically great players for each other, except that some low-key players like to play with other low-key players," he said. "Usually, you find the best teams have a calm one and an excitable one.
"Although neither is very rah-rah, I think Scott and Eric play well together and complement each other."
The nonchalance of these two seniors on the court carries over to their academic life. Two days after winning the team championship, the individual championships began and the following day final exams started. But all the testing and tennis did not faze Shiu and Stokdyk, despite Thursday's defeat.
After the match, neither player was concerned about exams.
"I'm in mostly advanced placement classes and we've already taken our AP tests, so I only have finals in a couple of classes and they should be easy," Stokdyk said.
"I'm not going to study for finals," Shiu said, "because I don't really care."