It’s a situation that may have left some freshmen intimidated.
Not so for Ryan Morgan, who stepped onto the court brimming with confidence in his quest to make history for the La Cañada High boys’ tennis team.
Looking to become the first La Cañada singles player to win a Rio Hondo League singles championship this century, Morgan embraced the challenge and enjoyed a benchmark moment that will likely fortify his promising high school career.
The second-seeded Morgan rallied for a 5-7, 6-1, 10-7 victory against top-seeded Leo Wang of San Marino in the championship match at Live Oak Park in Temple City on May 3.
“Maybe there was more pressure on Leo in that match, but I still knew I had to prove myself,” Morgan said. “I had to come back after losing that first set and I felt confident that I could rally to win it all. You come in a little nervous, but you have to find a way to stay composed and think about the things you need to do in order to be successful. To go out and win league was something special.”
Morgan figures to be a pillar for La Cañada in the upcoming seasons.
He’s certainly off to am impressive start. In addition to winning a league crown, Morgan finished 29-6, 19-3 in league, helped the Spartans finish second in league and advance to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs and reached the round of 32 in the CIF Individual Tournament.
It's because of those accomplishments that Morgan was voted the All-Area Boys' Tennis Singles Player of the Year by the sportswriters at the La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.
Morgan shined for La Cañada (11-4, 6-2 in league).
He quickly established himself in the lineup filled with upperclassmen and continued to rise.
“I came into the season and wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Morgan, who finished 6-0 in the playoffs against Beverly Hills and No. 3 Mira Costa. “I didn’t know anything about the players in our league, so you are starting over and getting used to another level of competition.
“I knew we’d have a talented team and we did a lot of good things. You just try to play your own game and continue to establish yourself.”
After a first-round bye in the league tournament, Morgan posted an 8-4 win against Ben Pestana of South Pasadena. Morgan followed with a 6-0, 6-1 semifinal victory against No. 3 Desmond Chen before topping Wang.
“It’s such a big deal for Ryan to go out there and beat some good players in order to win league,” La Cañada coach Will Moravec said. “He can hit a heavy ball and handle the power from his opponents and that played a big role in him winning league.
“He came into the season and then exceeded expectations. In high school tennis, you can only get three points at most per player and he did that a lot. It’s great to have a star player like that. There’s still a lot of things for Ryan to learn, but he will continue to establish himself.”
By reaching the league final, Morgan qualified for the CIF Individual Tournament on May 24 at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center in South El Monte. Morgan handled himself against some of the top players in the region.
On the first day, Morgan, following a first-round bye, recorded a 7-5, 6-4 win against Derek Lam of Arroyo before registering a 6-4, 6-4 victory versus Stevan Quintanar of Cerritos. Morgan saw his superb season wrap up May 31 following a 6-4, 6-1 defeat against Chris Fok of Thousand Oaks at Whittier Narrows.
“Chris is a friend of mine and I’ve never been able to beat him and he played so well in that match,” Morgan said. “Just being a part of CIF was quite something.
“I felt prepared going into it and I got a lot of good practice. I came out of the tournament knowing what I need to continue working on.”
La Cañada senior singles player JP McKenzie said he wasn’t shocked at what Morgan accomplished.
“Ryan and I go way back and I could see back then that he would be a very good player,” said McKenzie, who reached the semifinals in the league tournament. “You watch him now and he continues to play amazing tennis.