For the better part of the regular season, the San Marino High boys' tennis team's top tandem wasn't even on the same court.
Sophomore Robert Carter and freshman Danny Gealer weren't paired up and didn't team up much at all in 2012.
Yet, when the duo joined forces, albeit briefly, it proved to be the area's best tandem in advancing farther than any pair at both the Ojai Tennis Tournament and the CIF Southern Section Individual playoffs, the tennis season's two premiere tournaments.
For those efforts and their overall success, Carter and Gealer were named this year's All-Area Boys' Tennis Doubles Team of Year, as voted by the sports writers and editors of the Pasadena Sun, La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.
"They were two of the more talented players on the team. I experimented and gambled a little with putting Danny and Robert together early in the season twice and I liked what I saw," said San Marino first-year Coach Melwin Pereira, this year's All-Area Boys' Tennis Coach of the Year. "But we didn't go back to that until Ojai."
Gealer entered the year in competition with sophomore James Wade for the top singles position, while Carter was part of San Marino's top doubles squad at the time, which included freshman Timothy Duong.
"It was a little tough getting used to Danny's style at first because he's a very different player than Timothy," Carter said. "With Timothy, I led a lot more, but with Danny, I know I can let him do his own thing."
While Carter and Gealer played two sets together during the regular season, the duo's breakout effort came during the 112th annual Ojai Valley Tournament from April 26-28 at the Ojai Valley Tennis Club.
"I think you can say we expected to do well, but I'm not sure we knew how far we'd go," Gealer said. "We may have played our best tennis then."
The tandem opened with a victory via a withdrawal before winning their next match, 7-6, 6-3 in advancing to the second day of the tournament.
On the second day, Carter and Gealer clinched a victory in the round of 32 by a score of 6-0, 6-0 and followed that with a 3-6, 6-4, 1-0 (7) win over Corona Del Mar's pair of Alex Murray and Zach Williams.
Carter and Gealer's run was finally halted by Peninsula's duo of Jake Hoeger and Nick Tong, 7-5, 3-6, 14-12 in a thrilling quarterfinal match.
"It was a real back-and-forth match," Gealer said. "We could have won that one and I think after that, we understood how good of a team we could be."
Carter and Gealer, who finished with a 9-3 record, next opened the Rio Hondo League individual tournament May 2 with a bye before defeating La Cañada's top doubles' team of Leeho Lim and Harrison Zuk in the second round, 8-2, on May 2.
That victory vaulted the pair into the finals at Live Oak Park on May 3, where Carter and Gealer first dispatched teammates Liam Moravec and Koji Semba, 6-1, 6-2, in the semifinals before topping Temple City's Chris Lai and Johnny Wang, 6-0, 6-1, in the finals.
"The Temple City players were top-ranked in league going into the finals and Temple City played a tough team match the first time we played them," Gealer said. "We expected a tough finals and we played them well."
In between individual play, Carter and Gealer reverted back to their regular-season grouping as Carter paired with Duong and Gealer played singles in San Marino's team run though the Division I playoffs.
After wins over Milken Community, 17-1, and Troy, 12-6, San Marino faced juggernaut Irvine University (19-0) in the quarterfinals on May 15.
This time, both players paired up and notched one of San Marino's three victories as eventual division champion University won, 15-3.
"They're an incredible program and I think Danny and I were just hoping to take a set," Carter said. "We did that, so we couldn't be too disappointed."
Three days later, Carter and Gealer kicked of the CIF Individual Tournament at Redlands University, where they went 2-0 through the first three rounds with a bye and victories over Steven Hood and Nam Nguyen (6-1, 6-0) of Quartz Hill and Kevin Yen and Kevin Lai (6-0, 6-1) of Los Osos.
The triumphs advanced both to the round of 32 on May 24 at Whittier Narrows, where Carter and Gealer took down Sunset League champions Kyle Cann and Vatsal Bajpa of Los Alamitos, 6-4, 7-5.
"To win that match was great because it meant we advanced to Seal Beach," Gealer said. "That's where the best play and that meant we were in that group."
The thrill of reaching Seal Beach's round of 16 on May 25 was somewhat tempered by the realization that the San Marino twosome would face Desert Valley League champions Jack Felich and Austin Rapp of Palm Desert.
Felich and Rapp entered third-seeded and received quite a battle from Carter and Gealer before prevailing, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
"I think it was just a matter of experience in that match and they had more," said Gealer of Felich and Rapp, who three rounds later won the CIF Individual doubles championship. "But I was proud what we accomplished."
Carter echoed a similar sentiment.
"We didn't start the season on the same doubles team, so to accomplish what we did was really impressive," Carter said. "This was really fun and I look forward to next year."