Quentin Barcellos can’t actually remember making the decision to play tennis.
It was something so ingrained in the Los Banos High School freshman’s earliest memories it seemed every bit as inevitable as going to school or growing older.
Whether it was hanging out in the stands while his mom coached, supporting his older siblings at their matches or just messing around as a family on the weekends, the game was as automatic to Barcellos as breathing. It’s probably why he’s the only Barcellos child to make it his one and only sport.
“Each kid is unique, but Quentin was just always around tennis so much,” his mom and Tigers coach Lynn Barcellos said. “I feel like he had an advantage because he got to hit with and learn from his older siblings. He always hung out at the tennis courts waiting for me or his brother and sister. Eventually, it became his sport.”
It was that background that allowed Barcellos to step in as Los Banos’ No. 1 singles player as a freshman. As one might expect, there was an adjustment period. He finished 17-6 on the season, but four of those losses came in the first round of Western Athletic Conference play.
Barcellos found his niche in the second round, making an unexpected run to the conference title match and becoming the only local singles player to qualify for the postseason. It all helped to distinguish him as the Sun-Star Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
“There was some definite pressure playing as the No. 1 as a freshman,” Barcellos said. “You have to be consistently good so no one questions your being there. My ultimate goal was to make the section tournament, so I was very happy I did that.
“I came in pretty confident that I could play at the high school level, but I did even better than I expected. The main thing I learned this year was patience. Once I added that to my game, everything went very differently.”
Changing course in a season is seldom easy, especially with someone so young. That’s what Barcellos did, however, learning to wait out his opponents and allow them to make a mistake. Barcellos became so adept at keeping rallies alive that the other coaches in the league dubbed him the “human backboard.”
“I heard the other coaches talking and had no idea who it was about,” Lynn Barcellos said. “It made sense. He really did return everything they sent at him right back over. All of the other kids in league had varsity experience coming into the season, so when they couldn’t put him away, it really frustrated them.
“All my kids are pretty calm, but Quentin is definitely the calmest of them. You can’t look at his face and have any idea if he’s winning or losing. Nothing the other kids did or said affected him, and that got a lot of them out of their games.”
Even with Barcellos’ proven mental toughness and improved play to close the season, his run in the WAC tournament was unexpected. So much so that Lynn Barcellos admits to having him practice doubles with Los Banos No. 2 singles player Jared Haug the entire week leading up to it. She thought it was the young pair’s best opportunity to qualify for a postseason tournament.
Her son had other plans.
Barcellos ran off straight-set victories over Patterson’s Michael Cosio and Central Valley’s Manuel Lazcano to reach the semifinals. There, he gutted out a 6-3, 5-7, 10-7 victory over second-seeded Julian Ramirez of Patterson to secure his place in the championship match and the postseason.
The upset was all the more impressive because Ramirez had all the momentum. After securing the second set, Ramirez jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third-set tiebreaker. Barcellos answered, running off nine straight points to set up his victory.
“It was a very long match with a lot of rallies,” Barcellos said. “It definitely tested my patience. Dropping the second set was disappointing because I just wanted it over. But every time I’d played that guy it had gone three, so I wasn’t surprised.
“I got down in the third set but found a way to pull it out. This offseason, I really want to work on my put-away shot. I know how to outlast people, but if I can go for more big shots when the chance is there, I can save a lot of energy. My serve needs to get stronger and you can always improve footwork, but I’ve seen the level I need to play at for sections. I feel like if I put in the work, I can get there.”
All-Area Boys Tennis Team
Colin Robago, Merced
Angel Hernandez, Buhach Colony
Jared Haug, Los Banos
Angel Ramirez, Livingston
Oliver Calos, El Capitan
Alex Mercado, Livingston
Coach of the Year: Brad Osato, Livingston
Tuesday: Boys golf
Today: Boys tennis
Thursday: Track and field
Friday: Girls soccer