There were no illusions for the Flintridge Prep boys' tennis team, only an expectation for improvement.
With that mindset, the Rebels walked away with a sense of accomplishment and some valuable experience after the team was defeated by visiting archrival Pasadena Poly, 13-5, in Prep League action Thursday afternoon at the Arcadia Tennis Center.
"The focus today wasn't on winning, but on getting better," Flintridge Prep Coach Morisa Yang said. "Poly is a very good and tough team and we wanted to test ourselves today. We did so well that the other coach asked if we were missing a player the first time we met. So, we did improve."
The first time the unranked CIF Southern Section Division III Rebels (4-6, 2-2 in league) faced the Division II No. 8-ranked Panthers at Pasadena City College on April 11, Poly (12-1, 4-0) rolled to a 16-2 victory.
In that match, the Panthers posted 8-1 marks in singles and doubles action.
This time around, the Rebels improved in both areas, as Flintridge Prep singles players notched three wins, while doubles finished with two victories.
Flintridge Prep's two biggest catalysts for improvement were freshman singles player Derek Tran and the Rebels No. 1 twosome of sophomore Gills Linde and senior Christian Yeghnazar.
"We definitely improved," Yeghnazar said. "Going into last week, we were nervous, but we really came together as a team, played our hardest and gave 100% effort. That was the difference."
Linde and Yeghnazar picked up one victory in the team's first meeting and started off in bad shape after a 6-1 loss to Poly's Renzo Soatto and Nikhil Adarkar. The previous time, Linde and Yeghnazar were more competitive in a 6-3 defeat.
Any negativity after the loss did not carry over, tas they responded for victories of 6-1 and 6-2 in their final two sets.
The 6-1 triumph over Poly's Wally Corngold and Ray Fleming reversed a 6-2 loss to the Panthers' pair earlier this season.
"We started off nervous, but we picked it up," Linde said. "We just told ourselves, 'Let's do this' and we did our best and we had our 'A' game."
As for Tran, the youngster fell to Poly No. 1 Jack Fleming, 6-2, as Fleming finished 3-0.
Even so, Tran recovered for a 6-2 and 7-5 victory over Poly's No. 2 and 3 singles players, respectively, and responded to a 1-2 effort on April 11 with a 2-1 stint Thursday.
"With Derek, all I wanted was for him to improve from the first time we played Poly and he definitely did that," Yang said. "For our team, we're looking to get better and it only helps to play teams like Poly."
Flintridge Prep junior Ryan Lee picked up the victory in singles, 6-4, and finished 1-2.