Fountain Valley High boys’ tennis coach Harshul Patel said he broke down crying in his car after the Barons’ final Sunset League match at Marina on April 30.
The Barons had just gone undefeated in the league to win their first outright league title since 1991. It was a landmark moment for the eighth-year coach.
Another one was accomplished Wednesday. This time, there is no precedent.
No. 3-seeded Fountain Valley breezed past visiting JSerra 13-5 in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, advancing to a CIF title match for the first time in program history.
Fountain Valley (19-3) will play No. 1 Temecula Great Oak (23-0) in the final at The Claremont Club on Friday at noon.
Great Oak beat Arroyo Grande 12-6 in the other semifinal match Wednesday.
Fountain Valley had a balanced effort, winning six singles sets and seven doubles sets against JSerra (22-2). Justin Pham swept at No. 1 doubles with partners Tommy Trinh and Nathan Dang, while Eric Tadros and Kai Rodriguez swept at No. 3 doubles. Vivek Savsani and Brandon Keller won once in two attempts at No. 2 doubles.
Justin Nguyen won once at No. 1 singles before being subbed out in the third round, while Ryan Trinh and Ben Nguyen also won a pair of singles sets.
“[It’s hard to] put it into words,” Patel said when asked how it felt for the Barons to advance to their first section final. “We worked so hard. The goal was just to win league, change things around … and now we’re in the finals for the first time in the history of the school. The school is just so amazed at our results. We had a lot of teachers, a lot of faculty come out [today] to see this awesome, special group of kids. They’re just making it happen.”
Fountain Valley has cruised to the final, winning each of its four playoff matches by a 13-5 score or better. On Wednesday, the Barons took a 5-1 lead at the end of the first round after Pham and Tommy Trinh beat JSerra’s Keaton Dolan and Christian Sieck 7-6 (7-4) at No. 1 doubles. Pham and Trinh were down a break of serve at 3-4, but rallied to stay undefeated in dual matches this season.
“We weren’t really playing our best, but we were able to step it up at the end,” Trinh said. “Winning a close match is always relieving.”
By the end of the second round, the Barons had a 10-2 lead and had clinched their historic win, despite an eventual singles sweep by JSerra freshman Danny Day.
JSerra coach Kirk Orahood said his team, which shared the Trinity League title with Santa Margarita, did well to make it to the semifinals. The Lions were moved up after they were Division 3 finalists a year ago, and faced their second straight Sunset League foe after edging Huntington Beach 10-8 in the quarterfinals Monday.
“We were overpowered today,” Orahood said.
Patel said the team depth has been a strength all season for the Barons.
“Our depth is just amazing, absolutely, and that’s a blessing,” Patel said. “This is what you need to go deep in CIF.”
As a CIF finalist, the Barons will add to their collection of eight boards acknowledging the team’s accomplishments, which hang on the outside fence of the No. 2 singles court at the school.