BURBANK — The first round of the CIF Southern Section playoff match was a tough one for the Burbank High boys' tennis team.
The Bulldogs played well in the opening round against a tough Etiwanda squad in a Division III quarterfinal contest Monday afternoon. However, Burbank lost three close sets, setting the tone for the match.
Unable to recover from the early deficit, the Bulldogs lost, 12-6, at home against the Eagles, ending a successful season for Burbank.
The Bulldogs, who notched playoff victories against Gahr (12-6) and No. 4 seed Simi Valley (10-8), ended the season at 12-6.
Burbank fell behind after one round, 5-1, but lost one set by a tiebreaker, 7-6 (8-6) and two by 7-5 scores to give Etiwanda an early advantage.
"If we win just two of those in the first round, I think it's a totally different match," said Burbank coach Loi Phan, whose program advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in 11 years. "If we win them all we go up 4-2, but even if it was 3-3 I think that would have benefited us.
"You never know how [Etiwanda] would have reacted if they were down after the first round or even tied. I think they could get frustrated and that would have changed everything."
Burbank, which placed third in the Pacific League behind champion Arcadia and Crescenta Valley, mustered just one win in doubles against Etiwanda (15-4), which placed second in the Baseline League.
That win was turned in by the Bulldogs duo of Luciano Dapuetto and Ethan Lee in the final set of the match, 7-6 (9-7).
"I was thinking of changing some things up today and messing with the lineup a little bit," said Phan, who also led the Bulldogs girls' team to the quarterfinals in the fall. "But I figured we got this far with the lineup that we have, so I didn't change anything.
"We knew they were going to be a good team, but we didn't get spooked by playing against good teams. We have to play Arcadia twice every year and they are probably better than any team we are going to see in the playoffs. For the playoffs, we are already battle tested every year."
It was the second straight season Etiwanda eliminated Burbank in the playoffs, as it defeated the Bulldogs, 15-3, in the first round in 2017.
After falling behind early, Burbank trailed after two rounds, 9-3.
The Bulldogs received two wins from No. 1 singles James Lee, who prevailed, 6-4, 6-0, after losing the tiebreaker in the first round. Playing at No. 3, Alex Galstyan took two, 6-2, 6-2, and Nathan Soria won one, 6-0.
"Losing that first one was tough. I thought if I could have gotten that it would have been big for the team," James Lee said. "I was angry with myself after that, but then I had to regain my focus and I was able to do that.
"Last year we lost in the first round, so I knew this year would probably be the last year that we would be at this level because a lot of seniors will be leaving. But I'm proud that we were able to get to the quarterfinals … I think we all worked hard."