Burbank's Vardanyan on to round of 32 in CIF tennis

A singles player and a doubles girls' tennis team from Burbank High both received byes for the first round of their respective matches Monday in the CIF Southern Section Individuals Tournament.

While one was a scheduled bye, the other was unexpected.

While junior Lilit Vardanyan garnered a top seeding for the competition at Carpinteria High, earning her a bye, the senior doubles duo of Elizabeth Sanchez and Meredy Gharabegi received a walk-over in their opening match when their opponent failed to show up in the event at Cate High in Carpinteria.

After drawing a bye, Vardanyan faced Cameron Patterson of Marlborough in the second round. The Bulldog had little problem dispatching the No. 1 player from the Sunshine League, earning a 6-1, 6-1 victory.

In the third round, things got a little tougher for Vardanyan, as she faced local Kelsie Bryant of Carpinteria, the No. 1 player from the Frontier League. But Vardanyan, the Pacific League champion, was able to prevail with a 6-3, 7-5 victory.

"The player I was playing against was tough, and you could see she had played a lot of tennis," said Vardanyan, who moves on to the round of 32. "But I just tied to use different shots, drop shots and angles to win points. Also, my serve was working and I was able to get points off of that.

"It's just exciting to be playing and to be able to move on."

Despite the free pass to the second round, the wait might have affected Sanchez and Gharabegi, who fell in the second round.

Sanchez and Gharabegi, the runner-up from the Pacific League, showed up for the competition and waited for their opponents, Makayla Byerly and Karina Wang of Camarillo, the No. 1 team from the Pacific View League. But their opponent never showed.

"I think that hurt our doubles team because they had to sit around and wait for the second round and they didn't get any playing time in the first round." Burbank Coach Loi Phan said "You could see they were rusty in the opening set of the second round."

Facing Remy Balmain and Tina Inchalik of Valencia, the No. 1 tandem from the Foothill League, Sanchez and Gharabegi quickly fell into a 3-0 deficit. However, the Bulldogs pair battled back and began to play well, taking the first set, 6-4.

A number of double faults in the second set hindered the Bulldogs' pair, as they lost, 6-1, forcing a third set tiebreaker. Sanchez and Gharabegi went up, 4-2, in the third set, only to see the Valencia pair rally back to take a 9-9 advantage. On the verge of being eliminated, Sanchez and Gharabegi won the next point to knot things at 9. However, Valmain Inchalik took the next two points to win the match.

"Our girls had some problems, but they played well," Phan said. "They lost the first game of that second set. I really think if they would have won that game things might have been different and they could have won the second."

Sanchez said she has no regrets after falling in the tight match.

"Just to be able to come back to win that first set after being down was amazing for us," she said. "But in that second set I think we eased up a little and they were able to come back. Even in that third set it was so close. We went ahead and then they would come back.

"It was just a great experience to play in something like this. It really inspires me to want to play tennis and compete more."

It was Gharabegi's fourth straight trip to the CIF individuals, having qualified the three previous years with former partner Ashley Basco.

"Ashley even texted me today to tell me good luck and to do my best," Gharabegi said.

"I was really happy with the way we played today. We lost, but we were trying our best and we have them a good battle."

The round of 32 will take place Dec. 3 at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center in South El Monte. The round of 16 and quarterfinals will be Dec. 4 at Seal Beach Tennis Center. The semifinals and finals will take place Dec. 5 at Seal Beach.

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