Harvard Taking On All-Comers in Bid to Stay on Top

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of these years, the boys' tennis team at Harvard-Westlake High is going to struggle--no more love matches, no more love sets--and the Wolverines' opponents will be quite enamored of such a turn of events.

But those opponents are going to have to wait at least another year, and perhaps several more.

Harvard has won five consecutive Southern Section titles, including the past three 2-A Division championships, and is 57-6 the past three seasons. Nine of 10 players return from last year's 19-2 team, and Harvard is ranked No. 1 in the 2-A.

"The program has become a magnet for good players," Coach Harry Salamandra said. "They know they're going to find some tough competition on the team."

Harvard has several talented players to support Salamandra's contention, including sophomore Phillip Tseng. Tseng, ranked seventh among 16-year-old boys in Southern California by the Southern California Tennis Assn. in 1991, again will play No. 1 singles.

Either junior Aaron Cohen or senior Jim Steckler will play No. 2 singles and senior Chuck Tseng, Phillip's older brother, will play No. 3. Junior J. W. Hobson will fill in at singles and doubles.

Senior Steve Jang and junior Josh Litter will play No. 1 doubles. The team of sophomore Dan Bilco and junior Marcelo Arellano will compete with the team of seniors Brandon Levin and Bobby Yeh for the No. 2 slot.

Although Harvard competes at the 2-A level, the Wolverines are not reluctant to challenge teams from bigger schools that compete at the 3-A and 4-A levels. This season, Harvard (2-0) has beaten Agoura, 14-4, and Mira Costa, 15-3. Both are 4-A schools.

This season, Harvard will play seven teams that are ranked among the top 10 in their divisions. The Wolverines' schedule includes matches against 4-A schools Santa Barbara (No. 1), Beverly Hills (No. 3), and Peninsula (No. 7), as well as 3-A powers San Marino (No. 2) and Burbank (No. 6). Harvard also will play defending 1-A champion Pasadena Poly (No. 2) and Brentwood, which is ranked No. 1.

"We're looking for teams that will challenge us because it's good for us to play the toughest schedule we can," said Salamandra, who is in his 13th season as coach at Harvard. "We should do very well if we avoid injuries. I don't see any major weaknesses at this point."

A look at other top teams and top individuals:

SOUTHERN SECTION

Quartz Hill (Golden League)--If any team can challenge Harvard in the 2-A, it will be Quartz Hill.

The Rebels, ranked No. 2, are hoping for an opportunity to avenge a 15-3 loss to Harvard in a semifinal last season.

"We're really solid all the way down our lineup," Coach Bill Lenaway said.

Eight lettermen return from a team that was 22-1. Quartz Hill is off to a 6-0 start; the Rebels have won four matches by 18-0 scores and won, 15-1, in a match suspended because of darkness.

Senior Owen Goudie, who was 66-3 in sets last year and has won the past two Golden League singles titles, returns at No. 1 singles. Anand Shah, who played No. 3 last year, is in the No. 2 slot and Rajeev Dandamudi, who played No. 1 doubles last year with O'Reilly McMahon, is No. 3.

Kenny Parks and Val Valcarcel form the top doubles team, Richard Harper and Joe Beard play No. 2 and Charlie Stoll and Yatin Patel fill the No. 3 slot.

"One thing we have this year that we didn't last year is a lot of strength in our doubles," Lenaway said. "When you watch them play, it's hard to tell what team is our No. 1 and which is No. 2."

Rio Mesa (Channel League)--The presence of Santa Barbara in the Channel League leaves the other teams scrambling for second place. Santa Barbara, ranked No. 1 in the 4-A, has won four consecutive Southern Section titles and the Dons entered the season 169-2 since 1985. They have won 89 consecutive dual matches.

Rio Mesa (3-0, 2-0 in league play as of Monday) is the leading candidate to finish second, thanks to a lineup that is solid throughout.

Senior John Ciccone, a transfer from Arizona, will play No. 1 singles and Derek Carson will play No. 2. Robert Ruby, a three-year letterman, will play No. 3.

The doubles' lineup includes James Lin and Pat Nguyen, Ivan Cobos and Shon Sidransky, and Alex Oddo and John Tancreto.

Ventura (Channel League)--Although Ventura (2-4, 1-2) is off to a slow start, the Cougars are expected to battle Rio Mesa for second place in the league. Rio Mesa beat Ventura, 11-7, March 10.

Senior Darren Potkey, ranked seventh in boys' 18 singles, won the Ventura County Junior Tennis Assn. title last summer. He will play No. 1 singles.

The No. 1 doubles team of Mark Celeste and Aaron Acosta has won 13 of 15 sets.

Thousand Oaks (Marmonte League)--The Lancers are 38-8 the past two seasons, are ranked 10th in the 4-A, and are off to a 3-0 start that includes an 11-7 defeat of San Marino (No. 3 in the 3-A).

Those numbers notwithstanding, Coach Ron Hedin said he prefers to focus on the number one , which is how many players return from a team that was 18-5 and reached the quarterfinals of the 4-A playoffs last season.

"The ranking really doesn't mean anything," Hedin said. "We're in a rebuilding year."

Expect the Lancers to contend for a league title.

Chaminade (Mission League)--Behind freshmen Jeremy Testwuide and Paul Gross, the Eagles (4-1) are a strong 2-A team.

Testwuide, ranked sixth in boys' 14s, will play No. 1 singles and Gross will play No. 2. As a doubles team, Testwuide and Gross were ranked fourth in boys' 14s last season.

CITY SECTION

Taft (4-A Division)--Six players return from a team that lost to Chatsworth in last year's 4-A title match, making Taft the class of City Section teams in the San Fernando Valley.

Although Taft (2-0) has only three seniors in its lineup, the Toreadors are heavy favorites to battle University and Palisades for what would be their first City title since 1984.

Taft, however, already has suffered a setback. Junior Jason Uslaner, who combines with senior David Sobel to form Taft's No. 1 doubles team, sustained an ankle injury that will sideline him two to four weeks.

Freshman Jason Weiss, ranked fifth in boys' 14s, will play No. 1 singles and senior Leor Hurwitz, ranked 46th in boys' 16s, will play No. 2.

Junior Dvir Levy and senior David Goldman round out the singles lineup.

Sophomore Brian Sobel will fill in for Uslaner at No. 1 doubles.

Senior Alex Kwon and junior Larry Turobiner will play No. 2, and the No. 3 team is junior Ali Taheripour and junior Leon Stanislazski.

"We're deep in singles, but we have three doubles teams that have never played together," Coach Marvin Jones said.

Chatsworth (4-A Division)--The bulk of last year's championship team graduated and five sophomores will compete for the Chancellors.

But Chatsworth has developed a strong program under Coach Joe Santellano, and senior Rafael Huerta is one of the division's finest players. Huerta is ranked 19th in boys' 16s.

INDIVIDUALS TO WATCH

Nordhoff junior Derek Pope, ranked 15th in boys' 16s, will battle Potkey and Westlake's Stefan Hura for top billing in Ventura County.

Hura, ranked 35th in boys' 18 singles, already has beaten Potkey and single-handedly could transform the Warriors into a team that will be a solid contender for the Marmonte League championship.

Buena junior R. J. Cutting, ranked 64th in boys' 16s, leads a young Bulldog team that might be a year away.

Grant senior Mark Simon, a City Section 4-A Division semifinalist last year, singles tournament, is ranked 54th in boys' 18s and again is expected to contend for an individual title.

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