NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Shortly before the season began, many of the seven girls' tennis coaches in the Pacific League predicted that at least two teams would battle for the final playoff spot.
Among those were Hoover Coach Julie Hoppe and Burbank Coach Loi Phan. What Hoppe and Phan probably couldn't have forecasted was that it would be their respective squads that would play on the final day of the regular season to determine who would punch their postseason ticket.
Long after sunset fell Thursday, it was Burbank that earned the final playoff spot by the slimmest margin.
Hoover and Burbank battled to a 9-9 draw, which Hoover won on games, 81-79, in a match that took four hours to complete. However, Burbank picked up a 10-8 win against Hoover on Oct. 13 at Burbank, thus winning the tiebreaker based on sets won between the two teams in both meetings.
Burbank (5-10, 5-7 in league) overcame an 8-3 deficit to catch Hoover (6-8, 5-7).
Meredy Gharabegi of Burbank topped Hoover's Meghedi Mooradian, 7-5, in the final set — played with barely enough light on the court — to complete the deadlock.
Mooradian broke serve to tie the match at 5, but Gharabegi then broke serve before closing out the 70-minute set.
"Both of these matches could have gone either way," Phan said. "Both teams are very similar and play tight.
"We were down, 8-3, and we didn't give up. We had to battle back to get to 9-9."
While the Tornadoes fell short of wrapping up a playoff berth for the first time since the 80s, Hoppe said she was pleased that Hoover went out on a winning note.
"I knew going in that it would be exactly like this," Hoppe said. "I knew it would come down to the wire, either at 10-8 or 9-9.
"I told my players that we were so close to them and they left it all out there. I'm just happy to go out with a win and they proved to themselves that they could compete with the teams at the bottom half of the league. It's one of those matches where you needed to win every game."
Hoover notched six doubles victories, including two apiece from Lilit Manukyan and Zar Chavdarian and Collette Hamamah and Deena Hovsepian.
Manukyan and Chavdarian won, 6-3, 6-0, and Hamamah and Hovsepian teamed up to win, 6-1, 6-1.
The Tornadoes also got a 6-3 victory from Kristine Adzhemyan and Diana Karapetyan. Arpe Bagumyan won two singles sets, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) for Hoover, which also got a 6-4 victory from Mooradian.
Gharabegi swept her three sets, 6-4, 7-5, 6-0. Burbank also got two wins from Ashley Basco, 6-0, 6-1, and one from Gabrielle Markari, 6-4.
The Bulldogs received a pair of doubles wins from Aja Locke and Saniya Ibrahim, 6-4, 6-2, and a 7-6 (7-5) victory from Miyon Kim and Dana Gibson.