Boys' Tennis: Eagles fall in wild-card round

With temperatures approaching 100 degrees as the match started, both the hosts and visitors appreciated the shade canopies that Estancia High boys' tennis coach Jay Gardner put up at the Eagles' courts on Tuesday afternoon.

On the court, visiting San Gabriel definitely brought the heat. The Matadors ended the Eagles' season.

San Gabriel swept in doubles and defeated Estancia, 14-4, in a CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoff wild-card match.

"I was surprised they were such a good No. 3 team from that league," Gardner said of San Gabriel, which finished tied for third in the Almont League. "They were good. We have to win the majority of the singles to give us a shot."

San Gabriel's doubles teams of Kenny Lau and Peter Vo, as well as Peter Lau and Michael Vong, plus Chenghao Ghen and Leo Liu, all swept. Estancia's No. 1 doubles team of senior Raul Alvarez and junior David Doran came the closest to winning a set. But, in the first round, Kenny Lao and Vo rallied from a 4-1 deficit to claim a 7-6 (7-2) victory. The comeback gave San Gabriel a commanding 5-1 lead after the round.

Estancia (9-6), which finished second in the Orange Coast League, typically boasts an impressive singles lineup featuring junior Charlie Griffen, sophomore Kyle Hastings and junior Sterling Gates. Griffen finished fourth in the league individuals tournament.

But San Gabriel (8-9) also won five of nine singles sets. James Nguyen swept, while Fangyou Xie won twice before he was subbed out. Griffen, Hastings and Gates each beat the visitors' No. 3 player, while Gates beat Xie's substitute.

Griffen nearly claimed another win, against Nguyen, in the final set on the court. He rallied from a 5-2 deficit but eventually fell, 7-5.

"I think they were definitely a solid team," Griffen said. "But, I mean, the conditions were pretty tough. It was really hot out today, and that definitely affected the way I played. I didn't think I played my best, but they definitely had a really good team. They weren't easy to beat."

The Eagles did not appear to be too downtrodden after their season ended. Two of his teammates playfully tried to dump a bucket of water on Alvarez, the team's lone senior, but he ran away before it could be administered.

"The bad news is that you guys lost 4-14," said Gardner, who concluded his first season as the Eagles' varsity head coach. "The good news is, you don't have to travel to Hacienda Heights [Wednesday]."

The projected high temperature in Hacienda Heights on Wednesday is 102 degrees. San Gabriel does have to make the trek, as it will play at Valle Vista League champion Wilson (19-1) in the first round of the playoffs.

Estancia, meanwhile, appears to have a bright future. It will graduate just the one senior in Alvarez. And many of the players, like doubles players Luis Gonzalez, Steiner Velasquez, Juan Corona, Jon Gomez, Augie Gener and Angel Hernandez, are relatively new to the sport of tennis but have learned quickly.

"I think we had a really good season," Griffen said. "We had a lot of new people who really stepped up to the plate. They did a great job as first-year varsity players, just learning how to play tennis. They did a great job of helping out our team. Next year, I think there's only just room to get better and improve more. If everyone stays and we keep practicing and getting better, we'll definitely have a really good team next year."

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