Burbank girls' tennis befuddled by Beverly Hills

BEVERLY HILLS — The reward the Burbank High girls’ tennis team got for its second-place finish in Pacific league play was a road trip to Beverly Hills to face the host Normans in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs. Being the playoffs, it meant the Bulldogs had one chance to advance, one chance to play and one chance to set up their lineup. It was the latter, which represented an opportunity to make each of the former two things easier, that may have been the key element in Burbank’s 11-7 team season-ending loss Wednesday afternoon.

“Our lineup was wrong. [The Normans] are a good team,” said Burbank Coach Loi Phan, whose second-place finish in league was the highest of his six-year tenure at the school. “I’m not taking anything away from them. Their singles are strong and they beat us. We went with the lineup that gave us 13 wins; it just didn’t happen today.”

Burbank (13-3) came into the opening round matchup with little knowledge of its opponent, the second-place finisher from the Ocean League, so the Bulldogs fielded the same lineup they always do.

However, soon after the first rotation, Phan was already frustrated that he had not taken his No. 2 and No. 3 singles players, Ashley Basco and Meredy Gharabegi, and combined them as a doubles team to load up and take more sets in doubles.

Phan’s lament at not using this strategy played out as results came in. Basco and Gharabegi each decisively lost all three of their sets and Beverly Hills (6-6) came away with a 6-3 advantage in singles play.

“Let’s say we were going to play [Beverly Hills] again next week,” Phan said. “I probably would have put my No. 2 and No. 3 singles players together [in doubles] and they would probably sweep their doubles. That would have changed the games around completely, but you can’t. That is what is exciting about the playoffs, it is one and done. There is no would’ve, should’ve, could’ve.”

Lilit Vardanyan swept her three sets as the No.1 Burbank singles player after a lingering wrist injury had limited her to playing doubles in the league tournament. The sophomore beat Norman No. 1 freshman Martina Bocchi, 6-3, then Norman No. 2 captain Allison Isaacman, 6-2, and finally Norman No. 3 freshman Katarina Stefanovic, 6-2.

“The players I played today were very good,” Vardanyan said. “It was like playing in a USTA tournament. I thought it was a pretty good game because I got to play fully and show what I got. I had fun.”

Beverly Hills also took the doubles draw of the matchup, 5-4. No one was able to topple the Normans No. 1 combo of Miriam Binman and Charlotte Frank, who swept their three sets. Bulldog No. 1s Elizabeth Sanchez and Aja Locke pushed them the hardest, falling, 7-5.

The Burbank No. 2 doubles tandem of Dana Gibson and Veronica Mendoza won two sets, 6-3, 6-1.  

“Burbank was a good team,” Beverly Hills Coach Mike Margolin said. “We played very well. I was telling the girls this is a match six weeks ago could have gone either way.”

While this marks the end of team competition for this season of girls tennis at Burbank, two of the Bulldogs will be playing in the CIF Individuals playoffs starting Nov. 19. Basco and Gharabegi, who qualified at the Pacific League individual championships by way of a second-place finish in doubles, will represent Burbank.

“I thought we hung in there and we played,” Phan said. “We made a match of it at least.”

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