Pierce Opens With Flurry in Tennis Regional

The Pierce College men's tennis team specializes in the unlikely.

Since losing the first match of the season, the Brahmas have won 20 in a row, making a believer of veteran Coach Paul Xanthos.

Therefore, when Johnson Chen, the No. 5 player on the Pierce singles ladder, predicted he would finish in the top eight in the Southern California regional, Xanthos didn't bat an eye.

Apparently with good reason.

After the first day of action on the courts at Santa Barbara City College, Chen was a victory away from reaching the quarterfinals and automatically qualifying for next week's state championships in Rancho Bernardo, Calif.

Chen upset Matt Koch of Riverside City, 7-6, 6-3, in the round of 32, earning a shot at eighth-seeded Thomas Eek of College of the Desert today.

Chen and Eek certainly are not strangers. They also met Wednesday when Pierce and Desert played for the Southern California team championship.

That match was suspended by rain. Pierce and Desert are scheduled to finish their match at 9 a.m. Sunday at Pierce.

Desert, which is undefeated, is expected to easily defeat the Brahmas when play resumes.

But on Thursday, the first day of individual singles and doubles competition, Pierce made its presence known.

Kasper Nielsen, the Brahmas' top player, advanced in singles by defeating Richard Montano of Orange Coast, 6-2, 6-3. Nielsen was also undefeated in a pair of doubles matches, teaming with Vanja Nadali to beat Dan Jaurequi and Oliver Lee of Pasadena, 6-0, 6-3, and Al Benoit and Ian Kealosy of Fullerton, 6-3, 6-1.

The Pierce team of Chen and Miki Braun also moved into the round of 16. After a first-round bye, they defeated Grossmont's Ken Baker and Kelly Nygaard, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

In other doubles action, Diego Weinstel and Jeff Smith of Antelope Valley defeated Alex Hernandez and Juan Araque of Citrus, 6-3, 6-3, but fell in the second round to the Santa Barbara City team of Dominic Habibi and Jeff Spalinger, 6-2, 6-2.

Juan Rosales and Ruben Ortiz of Ventura lost their first-round match. Rajeev Datt and Chris Neuer of Pierce and Glendale's tandem of Ashot Smbatyan and Samuel Torres fell in the second round after receiving byes.

Weinstel, Antelope Valley's top player, and Smbatyan, the Western State Conference individual champion, still are alive in singles.

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