None of the local girls’ tennis teams appeared in a CIF Southern Section championship match last season after Glendale and Crescenta Valley enjoyed historic campaigns in which they reached title matches for the first time in 2017.
Glendale and Crescenta Valley were the only squads to qualify for the playoffs last season, while Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Flintridge Prep and Hoover did not experience the postseason.
With each squad having made some new additions, along with the return of several key players, all five programs have set team and individual goals for the 2019 campaign.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
After winning the CIF Southern Section Division IV title in 2017, Glendale was moved to Division II last season after the CIF Southern Section office realigned the divisions. The Nitros responded by going 13-7, 7-5 in the Pacific League to tie for third with Burbank. Glendale reached the second round of the playoffs before falling, 11-7, to Great Oak.
There’s still plenty of talent at Glendale, as five players from the 2017 team return in 2019 under third-year coach Tom Gossard.
“What I really like is that we still have a very good foundation in tact and we have the players from two years ago who can lead the way,” said Gossard, whose team will stay in Division II. “We have three very strong doubles teams, so we just need our Nos. 2 and 3 singles players to step it up and we’ll be in line to have lots of success.
“I’m very optimistic that we can put together another very good season. We’ll just go out there and do the best we can in our league and hopefully in CIF.”
Glendale will be led by junior singles player Celine Khachiki, who advanced to the semifinals in the league tournament last season. She will be joined by junior doubles athlete Janet Louie and junior singles/doubles player Momo Guzman.
Crescenta Valley marched to the Division II title contest in 2017 and was moved to Division I last season. The Falcons finished 14-8, 10-2 in the Pacific League for second place behind powerhouse Arcadia and lost to Marlborough, 13-5, in the first round of the postseason.
Crescenta Valley will bring back several prominent senior singles players in Melissa Rosa Muradoglu and Sarine Auvazian, but lost No. 2 singles player Victoria Borkowski. Borkowski, a junior who stabilized the singles lineup the past two seasons, recently informed coach Sam Hyun that she wouldn’t be returning.
“It’s definitely a big loss and it’s going to make things a little tougher in singles,” said Hyun, whose team will remain in Division I. “We’re hoping we can now find another singles player who can step up and get us some wins.
“At the same time, I think we’ve gotten much better in doubles and that can help our team out a lot. I think we’ll be fighting it out for second in league with Burbank and Glendale and it won’t be an easy task. Also, can we get past the first round of the playoffs? Maybe something surprising will happen.”
The No. 1 doubles team for the Falcons will consist of juniors Denitsa Georgieva and Sophia Labellarte.
FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY
There might be some huge promise this season for the Tologs and veteran coach Ron Zambrano.
Flintridge Sacred Heart, which will reside in Division IV for a second straight season, will look to contend for the Sunshine League championship after going 4-9, 3-5 in league last season for fourth place. The Tologs won the Sunshine League championship outright in 2014 and shared it with immaculate Heart in 2015 before spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons in the Mission League.
“We have a nice mix of talent and we are looking pretty good,” Zambrano said. “I’ve been trying to convince the players to think big and that we can win the league championship.
“I’m very optimistic that we can win a lot of league matches and we have a good group.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart will be anchored by the senior doubles team of Meghan Sullivan and Olivia Bartamian and the junior tandem of Hayes Sullivan and Claire McDonald. They will be joined by freshman Megan Gerety in singles.
Flintridge Prep will look different throughout its lineup this season after finishing 5-11, 0-8 in the Prep League last season.
The Rebels will bring back a couple of players and will be fairly young following the addition of several freshmen and sophomores.
It’s got second-year coach Roger Hollomand feeling positive about the program’s direction.
“I think you’ll see that we will be a well-rounded team than we’ve been in the previous couple of seasons,” said Hollomand, who piloted the school’s boys’ team to a Division IV championship in May. “We’ll have a pretty deep team and that will help us be in position to win a lot more matches. I’m excited and I think we have a team that can make the playoffs.”
Flintridge Prep, which will stay in Division IV, will be led by senior singles player Maya Khurana and junior singles athlete Audrey Oh.
The Tornadoes have show some signs of stability with coach Meredy Gharabegi returning for a second straight season. Gharabegi, a former player on the Glendale Community College women’s tennis team, came in last season as the third coach in as many seasons at Hoover.
Gharabegi said she’s focused on solidifying the program’s base.
“We want to establish a good culture and our players have been making a lot of progress,” said Gharabegi, who helped Glendale college win two Western State Conference championships. “The majority of our top seven players have improved, so that’s left me with a good feeling about the way we can compete this year.”
Hoover, which will move to Division III after being in Division IV last season, will bring back senior singles player Elen Arakelyan.
The Tornadoes went 2-10 overall and in the Pacific League for sixth place last season.
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