Big things will again be expected of Emile Ohanyan.
Fresh off two straight semifinal appearances in the Pacific League Tournament, the Hoover High boys' singles tennis player will look to cap his career with a league championship and help the Tornadoes advance to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
It's a challenge, one that Hoover Coach Julie Hoppe said Ohanyan can accomplish.
"Emile has gotten bigger, stronger and more confident," said Hoppe, a former All-Area Boys' Tennis Coach of the Year. "In watching him play, he's very relaxed and focused on the court.
"Watching Emile, you can see he wants to win the league singles title."
With Ohanyan leading the charge, Hoover might have an excellent opportunity to extend its streak of playoff berths. The Tornadoes fell to third-seeded Harvard-Westlake, 15-3, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs last season.
Ohanyan, who was the starting goalkeeper on the school's boys' soccer team this season, will be joined by sophomore singles athlete Hrant Agakhanyan. The Tornadoes will also bring back their top doubles team of seniors Danny Kim and Artur Arutunyan. Hoover will also have sophomore Chris Ghadimi in the mix to provide versatility in singles and doubles.
"We might not be as strong as last year and we will struggle in some areas," Hoppe said. "We will look to be competitive, plus we have some different combinations that we can always try.
"You never know about your team until you've seen a couple of matches."
Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep also qualified for the playoffs last season. The Falcons and Rebels each lost wild-card matches in Divisions I and II, respectively.
Crescenta Valley placed fourth in the Pacific League and will look to climb in the standings under second-year coach Sam Hyun, who will have a few key returners on board to battle against some of the league's high-caliber teams.
The Falcons, who lost to Redondo in the playoffs, will bring back junior doubles player Jason Chang, along with juniors Young Peak and Albert Chtchyan. Peak and Chtchyan will see action in singles and doubles.
Hyun said he'd like to see the Falcons develop some more depth in doubles.
"I've always been big on getting points in doubles," Hyun said. "It takes pressure off the singles players, so it will be interesting to see how we fare in doubles.
"We have some players who have shown signs of improvement. We will try to get the second spot in league and now we will see if we can get that done."
Flintridge Prep, which placed third in Prep League last season, will have a core of strong athletes returning.
Flintridge Prep second-year Coach Hratchia Sargsyan will look to weave returning senior William Dixon and juniors Reilly Dolleska and Alex Orloff into the lineup with some first-year athletes ripe with potential.
Dixon and Dolleska give Sargsyan options, as the duo can compete in singles and doubles. Orloff will be one of the Rebels' top doubles athletes.
"We have some steady returning players and it will be interesting to see how the new players will compete," said Sargsyan, whose team lost to Walnut in the postseason. "We will see where things ultimately stand, but it's a goal of ours to get back to the playoffs."
St. Francis took fourth in the arduous Mission League last season. Thought the Golden Knights missed out on the playoffs, they figure to return a strong core to put them in position to challenge for a playoff spot this season.
The Golden Knights will likely have a mix of experienced players to go along with some first-year athletes.
St. Francis will return senior singles player Kristian Estebe, senior doubles athlete Alex Kavakian and junior doubles player Greg Alei. They will be joined by sophomore singles player Mostafa El-Harazi and freshman singles athlete Jack Freer.
"We have some holes to fill, but I think we can get a top-three spot in league," St. Francis Coach Ron Zambrano said. "We have some players who compete year-round.
"We are looking good. I think we will have a pretty good lineup."
At Glendale, the Nitros will look to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in the Pacific League last season. Glendale will look to get back on track by turning mostly to its doubles teams.
The Nitros will feature senior doubles players Michael Akopians, David Ismailian and Mher Krikor and junior David Cassaburi. The top singles players expect to be juniors Arin Meserkhani and Artiom Ambartsoumian.
Veteran Glendale Coach Bob Davidson said the Nitros will attempt to move up in league.
"Our doubles teams should be very strong," Davidson said. "The question is how will we be in Nos. 2-3 singles?
"We are disappointed about not making the playoffs last year. We want to get back in the playoffs. I think we will have a better team."