Burbank tennis finally able to get out of first round of CIF

BURBANK — In his first six years coaching the Burbank High girls' tennis team, none of Loi Phan's teams had even been able to win a CIF Southern Section first-round playoff match.

PHOTOS: Burbank girls' tennis CIF Southern Section first-round playoff

Although the Bulldogs had won a few wild-card contests during the coach's tenure, making it to the second round of the postseason has been a difficult task.

In his seventh season, the Burbank players were trying to give their coach that elusive victory Wednesday when the Bulldogs opened the playoffs with a home match against La Palma Kennedy.

It was apparent early on that the long-awaited win was a forgone conclusion, as the Bulldogs captured seven of nine singles sets to notch a 13-5 win against the Fighting Irish.

"It's nice to finally get him the win," Burbank singles player Lilit Vardanyan said. "He's waited a long time. I think he'll be happy."

With the win, Burbank (15-2) ventures into a second-round match scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs will take on St. Margaret's at home. St. Margaret's (10-6, the No. 2 team from teh Academy League) defeated Diamond Bar, 13-5, in its first-round match Wednesday.

Burbank, which tied for its first league championship since 2002 and finished the season ranked No. 5 in the division, received the No. 1 seed out of the Pacific League.

"We didn't know anything about Kennedy at all," Phan said. "I tried to look up information on them and I couldn't fine anything. But what I do know is they were able to get an upset win and beat Estancia in the wild-card the other day.

"So we just had to go in and play hard and not worry that we don't know much about them."

The Fighting Irish (8-7-1), the fourth-place team from the Empire League, defeated Estancia, 12-6, in Tuesday's wild-card round.

With a win Friday in the second round, Burbank would advance to the program's first quarterfinal playoff match in 10 years. In that contest in 2003, the Bulldogs lost to Long Beach Poly, 16-2.

As has been the case throughout the season, Wednesday's win was spearheaded by the play of Vardanyan, who won the Pacific League championship. The junior ran her season record to 50-1 with an easy three-set sweep by 6-0 scores.

"We just came into today confident and everyone was out there giving it their best," Vardanyan said. "It doesn't matter who we play, even if we don't know anything about them, we just have to give it or best."

Freshman singles player Nicole Merrit did her part, as well, winning two of three, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.

The Bulldogs received a lift from the No. 3 singles spot, as two players notched a set win each. Mackenzie Emi began with a 6-4 win in the first round and she gave way to Natalie Mikitarian, who won her third-round set, 6-3.

"That win by Mackenzie in the first round was big for us," said Phan, whose team jumped out to a 5-1 advantage after the first of three rounds. "She's played a lot of doubles and to go in there and get a win in a CIF match was nice."

Burbank was also able to get sweeps from its No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams, as Elizabeth Sanchez and Meredy Gharabegi went, 7-5, 6-0, 6-0, and Gabrielle Markari and Veronica Mendoza went, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

"This season has been just so much fun for us," Sanchez said. "A lot of us are tired and kinda burned out from a long season, but we want to go far in the playoffs so that makes us try and push through and try that little extra to keep it going."

Copyright © 2019, Burbank Leader
EDITION: California | U.S. & World