Prep no match for top seed

GLENDALE — With the deck stacked against the Flintridge Prep girls’ tennis team opposing a No. 1 seed, Rebels Coach Ron Catano did what he could to reshuffle things in his favor.

But with only so many options available, it was still Palm Desert holding all the cards by the end of Thursday’s CIF Southern Section Division II first-round match in Palm Desert, a 14-4 loss for Prep that ended the most successful season in program history.

“I believe it was an extremely successful season,” said first-year co-Coach Ron Catano, who guided the Rebels (11-7) to a fourth-place finish in the Prep League and the program’s first-ever playoff win in Tuesday’s wild-card victory over Fontana. “I’m extremely happy about how everyone did and it was a learning process, too.”

The Rebels relied on their strong singles play all season, but Catano saw no point in pitting his best players against the Aztecs’ potent singles lineup of Desirae Krawczyk, Morgan McIntosh and Lauren Marker.

So Prep’s No.1 singles player, Kira Lee, went into the doubles bracket with partner Abby Letts, while No. 2 singles Jenise Vargas paired up with Lugene El-Harazi.

The gambit worked well enough, as Lee and Letts easily won their last two sets, 6-0, 6-0, after having been up, 4-1, in the first before Palm Desert’s No. 1 duo came back to win, 7-6.

“It went really well,” Lee said. “[Letts] is really consistent and she really held up the team. We lost the first one in a tiebreaker and we just tried to stay really positive. I was really surprised at how well we did because I’m not really a doubles player.

“I was fine [playing doubles]. It was a good strategy and I think we did the best that we could.”

Vargas and El-Harazi also fought their way to a 6-4 victory and Young-In Kim entered as a singles substitute to notch a 6-0 win against a substitute from Palm Desert (19-0-1).

“We’re really excited about [making the playoffs],” Lee said, “but also, we have a lot of juniors and freshmen, so we’ll be pretty strong next year, too.”


Get in touch GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-322g or gabriel.rizk@latimes.com.

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