This season’s CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs have led the Burroughs High boys’ tennis team to a familiar place against a familiar opponent.
For the second-straight year, the Indians will travel to Palm Desert to take on the No. 1-seeded Aztecs in a semifinal contest. The teams will take to the court at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Burroughs will be looking to avenge a 14-4 loss at the hands of Palm Desert in the 2011 semifinal. The Aztecs went on to capture the division championship.
To knock off Palm Desert, however, the Indians will likely have to get through a lineup that is chalk full of talent in singles as well as doubles. In the playoffs thus far, the three Aztecs doubles corps have a combined 27-0 record.
Leading that doubles group is the team of Jack Felish and Austin Rapp, which notched 6-0, 6-0, 6-1 wins against Arroyo Grande in the quarterfinals. The duo also won the Desert Valley League championship. The team also has accomplished doubles squads in Cameron McDonald and Austin Graham and John Kimmes and Matt Leggat.
League champion Palm Desert also has a formidable singles group that is led by Abe Hewko, who earned a sweep by 6-0 scores against Arroyo Grande. The junior also secured the league individual title. Other strong singles include Robbie Graham and Ryan Marker.
“I’ll just tell you this; I feel fortunate that I don’t have a hole in the lineup this year,” Palm Desert Coach Randy Blalock said. “And the 27-0 record for our singles, that’s with not moving any of our singles down to doubles.”
The Indians will counter in singles with two-time Pacific League champion Garrett Auproux, a junior who has a season record of 35-1. However, the rest of the singles lineup is still up in the air. Because of a hand injury to league singles runner-up Calvin Fox and a wrist injury to Michael Whelan, Coach Roy Bernhardt stacked the doubles against Chadwick and both teamed up in separate duos.
The team does have a talented duo in senior Phillip Lam and junior Kevin Hoang, who won the league doubles championship. Wen Yao Lin has also played singles all season and has been teamed up with various partners.
Freshman Sawyer Patterson has played both singles and doubles in the postseason.
“We still haven’t figured out exactly what lineup we’re going to go with,” said Bernhardt, whose team placed second in league. “The guys are pretty healthy right now, so there are some different things that we can do. But we still have some time to decide.”
When it comes to success in the CIF playoffs, Palm Desert definitely has the edge. It has won three CIF titles, in 1995, 2002 and 2011. The Aztecs also made it to the finals twice in recent years, losing both times in games, 80-75, against Brentwood in 2010 and, 84-73, to Diamond Bar in 2008.
In contrast, the Indians find themselves in the semifinal round for only the second time in program history after making the final four for just the first time last season.
“We know that Palm Desert is going to be tough for sure,” Bernhardt said. “But I think we have a lot better chance this year than we did last year.”
The Indians (13-2) advanced to the semifinals with a 10-8 win Tuesday against host Chadwick. In addition, they defeated Rio Mesa in the first round, 14-4, and Valencia in the second round, 11-7.
For the Aztecs (20-1), they have been able to breeze through the playoffs. The team opened with an 18-0 win against Glendale, then beat Claremont, 12-6, and downed Arroyo Grande, 16-2, in the quarterfinals.
Last season against Palm Desert, the Indians had to travel a far distance and were greeted with 100-plus degree weather.
“Every school should feel that they have a home-court advantage,” Blalock said. “We like playing in the heat and we’re used to it. But it also goes both ways. Sometimes we travel into L.A. and we have to deal with the smog; but you just have to come out and play.”
The winner will advance to the championship match May 30 at the Claremont Club to take on either Century League champion Esperanza or second-seeded Ocean League champion Santa Monica.