Burbank girls' tennis gets piece of Pacific League championship

BURBANK — Even after the Burbank High girls' tennis team lost a couple of key players to graduation last season, Bulldogs Coach Loi Phan looked at his current cast of players believing they could contend for a Pacific League championship this season.

Burbank placed second in league last season behind Arcadia, yet the finish revitalized the Bulldogs — on and off the court. Burbank looked for a positive carryover this season, beginning with its formidable singles trio of Lilit Vardanyan, Meredy Ghartabegi and Nicole Merrit to pave the way in the Bulldogs' quest to win the program's first Pacific League title.

The trio rose to the occasion Thursday, as it won a combined eight sets to power host Burbank to a 17-1 win against Glendale and earn a share of the league championship with Arcadia for the first time in the program's history.

"The program had won some Foothill League titles before moving to the Pacific League [in 2006]," said Phan, whose team improved to 14-2, 11-1 in league and is ranked No. 5 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division II poll behind San Marino, Anaheim Canyon, Laguna Beach and Hart. "It's nice to bring a championship back here.

"We were so close to at least sharing league last year. Our players were able to come back this season and learn how to finish. They were not that happy about finishing second last year. That was one of the biggest differences."

The Bulldogs won their sixth match in a row. Burbank split two head-to-head meetings with Arcadia, as it registered a 10-8 win at Arcadia before the team tied, 9-9, in the second meeting. However, Arcadia won on games, 79-77. Nonetheless, Burbank will enter the CIF postseason as the No. 1 seed from the league thanks to the combined point disparity in the two matches.

Vardanyan won her three sets, 6-2, 6-0, 6-1. Gharabegi swept, 6-1. 6-1, 6-1 and Merrit won, 6-1, 6-1.

"Having those three there can set the table for us," Phan said. "Their hard work has paid off."

Burbank didn't stop there, as it won all nine doubles sets.

Burbank's No. 1 doubles team of Elizabeth Sanchez Veronica Mendoza won, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0. The Bulldogs also got doubles victories from MacKenzie Emi and Natalie Pickens (6-2, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1) and Marny Ehmann and Yeva Petrosyan (6-4, 6-4, 6-2).

Arcadia and Crescenta Valley had either shared the league championship or won it outright between 1995-2012.

Burbank, which notched a 14-4 road victory against Glendale (7-8, 6-6) on Oct. 1, will next compete in the league individual prelims at 1 p.m. Monday at Pasadena High. The league finals will take place Wednesday at the same venue.

"We're not finished yet," said Phan, whose team fell to Beverly Hills in the first round of the playoffs last season. "The goal coming into the season was to do something that we've never done before in winning league.

"We want to continue to do more and expand on what we have been able to accomplish so far. We want to go far in the playoffs."


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