GLENDALE — Competing in arguably the state’s toughest conference in the junior college men’s tennis circuit brought out the best in Matthew Taoatao.
The fierce weekly clashes taught the standout Glendale Community College player what he needed to learn to be among the best in the Western State Conference, which featured state champion Ventura College and a slew of talented players who made names for themselves this past season.
Include Taoatao on that list, after he proved his value and showcased his talent throughout the season to each of the conference’s six coaches.
Taoatao was recently tabbed the conference’s co-player of the year. The sophomore, who advanced all the way to the round-of-16 in the Southern California Regionals at Riverside Community College, shared the award with Hassan Abbas of Ventura College.
It marked the second consecutive year that a Vaquero won the prestigious award. Dylan Kim earned the accolade last season after winning the conference and state championship.
“It’s probably one of my biggest achievements,” said Taoatao, who was also named to the conference’s second team at No. 2 singles after going 25-11 in conference action in two seasons at Glendale college. “It’s so much harder playing college tennis and in our conference.
“I was the Foothill League Most Valuable Player three times while at Hart High. This one means more because there were so many tough matches. In every match, I had to fight and battle.”
The honors kept on rolling in for Taoatao, as he and teammate Greg Arutyunyan also received second team honorable mention in doubles after going 3-3 in conference competition this season. Taoatao finished 18-10 in doubles conference play in his two seasons with the Vaqueros.
Glendale college Coach Bob MacKay said Taoatao — ranked No. 10 in Southern California, according to Intercollegiate Tennis Assn. — proved he could become a top-flight player in the conference.
“He left nothing on the court,” said MacKay, whose team finished 8-12 and 5-5 in conference this season and didn’t qualify for the Southern California Regionals. “It’s pretty big for him to get this because he finished whatever he started.
“Last year to this year, there’s no comparison in his play. He became his own person and learned how to grind it out playing.”
Arutyunyan, a Clark Magnet School graduate and a former member of the Glendale High boys’ tennis squad, was named to the conference’s second team at No. 4 singles after winning eight of his 10 conference matches.
“Greg came here to GCC and had fun,” MacKay said. “He proved to be a great player, and it’s important to have that in an individual sport.”
In doubles, the Glendale college team of freshmen Emanuel Haug and Ryan Stanbury received honorable mention after they went 1-5 despite both missing time because of injuries and illness. However, they made it to the round-of-16 in the Southern California Regionals.