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Youth movement is on

Jeff Tully

Although Paul McNiff wasn’t the varsity coach, he is aware of some of

the problems the Burbank High girls’ tennis team went through last



Some of the Bulldogs didn’t get along, and that led to some

tension and animosity among the players.

“Over the summer, I bought the girls shirts T-shirts and the

message on the back says ‘consistency.’ But what I really wanted to


put on the back was ‘no drama, ' " McNiff said.

“Last season, there wee too many extracurricular, off-the-court

issues that had nothing to do with tennis. Those type of things

aren’t good for a team and the players are affected by it.”

With the main culprits of last season’s problems gone via

graduation, Burbank returning doubles player Kristine Patatanyan said

this year’s squad has a completely different attitude.

“We can already tell it’s not going to be anything like last


year.” she said. “This team gets along a lot better and there

shouldn’t be the same kinds of problems we had before.”

While Burbank and Burroughs will have their share of returning

players, it should be the Bulldogs who will be gunning for a Foothill

League championship.

Not that the Indians won’t have talent. But Coach Roy Bernhardt

said his squad is probably a year or two away from being a real

league threat.


Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up:


With most of his team returning, McNiff figures the squad will

turn out one of two ways this season -- good, or very good.

One of the factors that will influence Burbank’s success is the

status of its No. 1 singles player from a year ago, Lucy Youchkovets.

Youchkovets, a junior, was injured in a car accident following the

2002 season and didn’t work out with the team the entire summer.

Unaware of his player’s status, McNiff thought he had lost her for

the season. However, he said Youchkovets contacted him just days ago

and expressed her desire to play.

“She is a solid player and she has a spot on our team,” McNiff

said. “I’m just not sure if she is as physically fit as in previous

years. We will just have to see how she is.

“Lucy has earned all-league honors the last two years and she is a

player we could really use.”

Even if Youchkovets does come back in fighting shape, she could

get a challenge from freshman Mariann Khachatryan. Khachatryan --

whose father, Harout, is a successful and popular instructor at the

Burbank Tennis Center -- comes into high school play a seasoned

junior tournament player.

“Mariann has a lot of experience and she is used to being on the

court in pressure situations,” McNiff said. “She is extremely calm

and confident on the court.”

Khachatryan is ranked No. 12 in the Southern California Tennis

Assn. girls’ 14 division.

McNiff said he believes Khachatryan could have the talent to

topple defending league champion, junior Yasaman Sakhakorn of


The Bulldogs also have a fine returning singles player in Natalie


“With Lucy, we will have a very good 1-2-3 punch,” said McNiff,

whose team was 11-9 (6-4 in league) in 2002.

Along with having accomplished singles athletes, the Bulldogs

return almost their entire doubles corps.

Leading the way is Patatanyan, who will probably pair up with

junior Vera Affi for the program’s top doubles team.

Other doubles players who should make an impact are sisters

Christina Zapata -- a senior -- and Summer Zapata -- a junior -- and

junior Diane Grair.

Last season, under Coach Larry Lambert, the Bulldogs failed to win

a share of the league title for the first time in three seasons.

However this year, McNiff thinks his team should compete for a


“Hart and Valencia, who we both lost to twice last season, are

going to be very competitive,” he said. “I think we should have the

better doubles players. But it should be very close in doubles.”


With a 2-14 (0-10 in league) record in 2002, Bernhardt said he is

not expecting miracles from this year’s Indian squad.

“What we are trying to do here is promote tennis,” said Bernhardt,

whose teams won league titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and shared the

1999 crown with Burbank. “We are teaching players how to play so they

can play tennis the rest of their lives.

“If we happen to win a few matches along the way, that’s great.

But we aren’t going to be unrealistic about this season.”

Burroughs has been affected by the decision of three of last

year’s starters, who have decided not to play for various reasons.

That leaves the Indians with a group of mostly untested players.

“Maybe in a couple years, when we have all these freshmen and

sophomores come up, we should be a lot better,” assistant coach Dave

Stanfield said. “We should be better even next year.

“So it will just take a little time for us to improve.”

The Burroughs players realize there is nowhere to go but up in

league, as the team has posted a 1-19 record the past two seasons.

Helping the team on the road to improvement should be returning

No. 1 singles Pam DeVerya, a senior. Junior Jennie Eamnarangkool will

also play singles.

The Indians might get a boost in singles from freshman Stephany

Arroyane, who has just joined the team.

In doubles, senior Aileen Campbell and Ashley Desjardines, juniors

An Do, Teresa Williams and Eudina Peralta and sophomore Arpi

Dergalestian should give the team some depth.