Depleted La Cañada High boys' tennis team no match for Palm Desert in CIF loss

LA CAÑADA — It was a playoff scenario the La Cañada High boys’ tennis team had found itself facing before.

For the second straight season Friday, the Spartans played a CIF Southern Section Division II postseason match in stifling temperatures against a red-hot opponent in Palm Desert.

To make matters worse for La Cañada in the second-round match was it had to play against the high-octane Aztecs without some key players — including its No. 1 singles player and No. 2 doubles team — who skipped the contest to attend a senior ditch day outing on Catalina Island.

“With those players missing, I had to struggle even to put a full team out there today,” Spartans Coach Will Moravec said.

Although the Spartans probably wouldn’t have beaten No. 2-seeded Palm Desert even with the departed seniors, they had no chance against the talented Aztecs, losing at home, 16-2.

Palm Desert has been the most successful program in the division the last few years, winning titles in 2011 and ’12, getting to the semifinals for five straight seasons and playing for the championship two of the last three years.

In last year’s Division II quarterfinals, the Spartans also lost to the Aztecs, 18-0. In that match at Palm Desert, the temperature got as hot as 108 degrees. In Friday’s contest, the temperature was in the upper-90s at start time.

“That’s what I commented on in the introductions; another hot day when these two teams meet in the playoffs,” Moravec said.

La Cañada also lost to Palm Desert (18-0), which captured the Desert Valley League championship, in the 2010 playoffs, 11-7.

Palm Desert No. 1 singles player Austin Rapp, who is headed to UCLA, said the fact his team often trains and plays in triple-digit temperatures is a benefit.

“It is a distinct advantage, for sure,” said Rapp, who won the Desert Valley League singles title. “There is the physical aspect, and you have to constantly keep drinking fluids to keep hydrated. But there’s also the mental part and I think it might get to some teams who don’t play a lot in the heat.”

The only two sets won by the Spartans (11-6) on Friday came in singles, as freshman Lucas Chmielewski took two of three, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.

In the final set of the afternoon, Chmielewski fell behind Matt Leggat. But the Spartans freshman battled back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score at 4. He then came back to again tie the set at 5, before winning the final two games.

However, maybe Chmielewski’s best effort of the contest was winning three games off of Rapp. Rapp is a decorated player who lost just three total games in four sets in the league tournament. In addition, he won the prestigious Ojai Tournament, is ranked No. 4 in Southern California and No. 32 in the nation.

“I was very happy with the way that I played against him,” said Chmielewski, who placed third in the Rio Hondo League Tournament. “He is a very good player, probably the best player I’ve played all season. I just tried to change things up against him and just do my best.”

The only other games the Spartans were able to win in the contest came in doubles. While the No. 1 duo of Pat Finnigan and Nick Malone went, 1-6, 3-6, 2-6, No. 2 Woojin Jung and Chris Walch went, 1-6, 3-6, 1-6, and Chris Madsen and Alex Vilesov went, 0-6, 0-6, 1-6

La Cañada qualified for the playoffs after finishing second in the Rio Hondo League behind No. 1-seeded San Marino, which defeated Palm Desert, 13-5, in the 2013 Division II championship. The Spartans won their first-round match Wednesday against Troy, 12-6.


Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.

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