Last season, the five local boys’ tennis teams had mixed results.
Just two of the squads — Crescenta Valley and St. Francis — qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs, while Flintridge Prep, Glendale and Hoover missed out while trying to reshape their respective foundations.
With a new campaign having begun, there are positive vibes surrounding each team. Flintridge Prep will be in a new league and Glendale and Hoover will have new coaches on board to help steer their programs in the right direction.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Falcons figure to have an experienced team, aided by seven seniors. Leadership will be a huge factor for Crescenta Valley, which turned in a deep postseason run by advancing to the CIF Division II quarterfinals before falling to third-seeded Temecula Valley in 2018. The Falcons went 17-4, 10-2 in the Pacific League for second place behind powerhouse Arcadia.
“The two big things about our team are that we are more experienced and mature,” Crescenta Valley coach Sam Hyun said. “We have to find a way to use that to our advantage throughout the season and hopefully we can get a top-two spot in league.
“We have a good mix of players in singles and doubles. Arcadia is always strong and they have some freshmen coming in. And you know Burbank will be good, too.”
The Falcons will be led in singles by Erik Babayan and junior Carlos Vincencio and the senior doubles team of Justin Kim and Mclean Lunt..
St. Francis will count on standout Ian Freer and a mix of sophomores and juniors to keep it on the right track. The Golden Knights finished 5-10, 4-6 in the Mission League last season for third place before succumbing to Anaheim Canyon in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
“I think we have a group that’s very motivated to improve,” St. Francis coach Ron Zambrano said. “I like our talent a lot and I think we’ll be a little better than we were last year.”
Freer, who teamed with his brother, Jack, to earn All-Area Boys’ Doubles Team of the Year in 2017, will anchor the lineup in singles. Also looking to make their marks for the Golden Knights are senior Daniel Crump in singles and doubles and the sophomore brother duo of Cody and Connor Basso in doubles.
Roger Hollomand starts his second season as coach at Flintridge Prep, which went 4-8, 3-3 in the Prep League for third place last season.
Finishing below .500 doesn’t appear to be a negative for the Rebels. Hollomand said about 25 players tried out leading into this season, giving the Rebels depth.
“We basically have a new crop of players to go along with some of our returners,” Hollomand said. “It’s encouraging and you need to have depth.”
Flintridge Prep brings back a singles lineup that will include senior Gillis Linde and junior Derek Tran, a former All-Area Singles Player of the Year. Also looking to make an impact for the Rebels are senior David Kim and sophomore Andrew Megerdichian in doubles.
After competing in the Prep League for decades, Flintridge Prep will now be in the five-team Liberty League with Pasadena Poly, Chadwick, Firebaugh and Buckley. All but Buckley were in the Prep League last season.
Glendale will have its third coach in as many seasons. Eric Kazangian, a Flintridge Prep graduate and a former All-Area honoree, takes over for Connor Fulgham.
Kazangian will look to help the Nitros gain traction after they were 4-8 for fifth place in the Pacific League last season.
“I just love tennis and it’s exciting to be able to coach,” Kazangian said. “You just look for people who are committed to playing tennis and you try to shape the program and get some wins.”
Glendale will turn to senior Richard Mirzoain and sophomore Marko Ratkovic in singles and David Chibukhchyan, a junior, in doubles.
Like cross-town rival Glendale, Hoover will bring in a new coach for the third season in a row. Meredy Gharabegi, who also coaches the school’s girls’ team, replaces Debra Lisselbeck.
Hoover finished 1-12, 1-11 in the Pacific League last season to tie for last place with Pasadena.
“I’m pumped to be able to coach the team,” said Gharabegi, a former Burbank High girls’ and Glendale Community College women’s tennis player. “We’ve added a few new players to the team and we are excited to get going. it’s just about trying to get them to be comfortable with each other.”
The Tornadoes will feature sophomore singles players Kevin Nazarian and Vahe Halebeian.