San Marino High boys' tennis leads local contingent

While five local schools sent at least one representative to the opening day of the CIF Southern Section Boys’ Individual Tennis Tournament, only one such group survived to the next round.

Among San Marino High, La Salle, Pasadena Armenian General Benevolent Union, Pasadena Poly and Maranatha, only CIF Southern Section Division II champion San Marino advanced a representative past the first day as two Titans doubles teams and one singles players qualified to the following week’s individual action.

The CIF will announce Tuesday whether the players have qualified to the Round of 16 tournament on Friday at the Seal Beach Tennis Center or will have to play a preliminary round first on Thursday at Whittier Narrows.

“It was a pretty good day and I’m very excited,” said Titans Coach Melwin Pereira, whose squad participated in Thursday’s opening round at Whittier Narrows. “We played pretty well and we almost got everyone to the next round.”

On the doubles circuit, the reigning All-Area Doubles Team of the Year, Robert Carter and Daniel Gealer, only needed two wins to advance.

The pair received a first-round bye and then needed little time to topple South Torrance’s No. 1 entry of Brandon Chai and Joseph Choi, 6-0, 6-1. That victory preceded a 6-2, 6-1 win over Long Beach Poly’s top squad of Cameron Mason and Matt Garner, 6-2, 6-1.

Carter and Gealer will be joined in the next round by teammates Derek Chen and Nicholas Splichal, the Rio Hondo League’s No. 2 seed, who proved a pleasant surprise Thursday.

Chen and Splichal earned a first-round bye before knocking off Paramount’s No. 2 seed of Luscious Garibay and Brendan Aparicio, 6-0, 6-0.

Then in San Marino’s lone upset, Chen and Splichal defeated Palos Verdes Peninsula’s No. 1 seed of Tony Del Valle and Kent Muki, 6-4, 6-3.

“That was a great win for those guys, I’m so proud of them,” Pereira said of Chen and Splichal. “That’s a good team they beat.”

Rio Hondo League singles champion James Wade earned his way into the next round by going 2-0 on Thursday.

After receiving a bye, Wade topped Suburban League runner-up Ronak Hedge of Cerritos High, 6-0, 6-0. That victory was followed by a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Bay League No. 2 player Brandon Holt, son of former professional tennis standout Tracy Austin, in the day’s third and final round.

The only setback was to Titans freshman Ryan Cheng, who went down in the third round.

Cheng was the lone Titan without the benefit of a bye, but opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over El Monte’s top singles player, Ehinh Do, and then came back with a 6-1, 6-1 victory versus Chino’s top player, Carlos Villalobos.

Cheng’s push to the next round was halted, though, by Harvard-Westlake ace Michael Genender, 6-1, 6-2.

The rest of the Pasadena area’s competitors saw their seasons conclude.

Prep League co-champion Pasadena Poly sent two entrants in sophomore singles player Henry La Soya and the duo of sophomore Andrew Trojan and junior Sachin Puri.

All three headed to the University of Redlands and advanced past the first round in going 1-1.

La Soya began with a victory over Lancaster High’s David Garcia, 6-2, 6-1 before running into a buzz saw in the second round in the form of Alta Loma’s Victor Brown.

The Baseline League champion, who advanced out of three rounds, topped La Soya, 6-3, 6-1.

As for Trojan and Puri, they also began with a bright start, notching an impressive 6-0, 6-1 triumph over the Grand Terrace duo of Santiago Gudina and Diego Espinoza in the first round.

That win came before a tough defeat to Desert Valley League champion Cameron McDonald and Brad Cummins, 6-1, 6-0.

“This was a great learning experience for the guys and at least they won one round,” Panthers Coach Sheryl Bon-Bakalov said. “I’m proud of what they accomplished.”

A historic season for Maranatha included one more feat as the Olympic League runner-up doubles duo of senior Wesley Oliver and junior Chris Chun notched an opening-round 3-6, 6-0, 10-7 victory over Cerritos High’s No. 2 squad.

“That’s the first time that we’ve ever got past the first round, at least that I know of,” Maranatha Coach Arthur Hsieh said. “So, that was nice.”

Oliver and Chun then fell in the second round to Palos Verdes Peninsula’s No. 2 team of Dylan Holt (other son of Tracy Austin) and Elliot Solandt, 6-1, 6-0.

AGBU freshman Vahe Yacoubian also made history in an opening-round match at Cate High in Carpinteria, as the Glendale resident became his school’s first-ever tennis qualifier.

Despite a valiant effort, Yacoubian came up short, losing to Frontier League champion Spencer Ekola of Santa Barbara Bishop Diego, 6-1, 6-3.

“Around the second set, I think Vahe understood that he definitely needed to be more aggressive and he took on a different approach and challenged his opponent,” said Spartans Coach Maro Yacoubian, who is also Vahe’s mother. “His opponent was an excellent player and it was a great match.”

Unlike all the area’s other competitors, Yacoubian qualified to the individual tournament as a freelancer since Pasadena AGBU does not field a team.

The final local representative, La Salle High seniors Rob Hulbert and Ezane Berhane, saw a quick exit in the first round at Cate High, as the Del Rey League’s No. 2 duo fell to Palos Verde’s top team, 6-0, 6-2.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now