GLENDALE — Sarah Ali and Karen Ataian have only a handful of matches together as a doubles team, but the Crescenta Valley High girls' tennis tandem has done nothing but win since being paired together for the Pacific League finals on Nov.1.
With the postseason having reached the win-or-go-home juncture, the duo now have no choice but to maintain that trend and so far seem fit for the task. Ali and Ataian, the No. 1 team out of the Pacific League, continued their successful collaboration on Friday by storming through the first three rounds of the CIF Individuals Tournament at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center.
They defeated the Del Rey League No. 1 team of Sandra Poledo and Rachelle Tacsuan out of Lakewood St. Joseph's, 6-2, 6-1, in the third round to advance to the round of 16 and quarterfinals Dec. 2 at Seal Beach Tennis Center.
"When we went into the third match, we just wanted to do our job and finish it off," said Ali, a senior who spent the regular season in a doubles partnership with Talia Mooradkhanian, but was paired with Ataian, a freshman singles player, and went on to win the league doubles title with her when Mooradkhanian was unavailable for league finals. "At this point, we're used to playing with each other. It's just a matter of actually doing techniques to win, setting up the point, stuff like that."
Ali And Ataian started off the day with a 6-1, 6-3 win over West Ranch's Mallory Martin and True O'Neill, the No. 2 team from the Foothill League. In the second round, Ali and Ataian beat the Delphic League's No. 1 team of Sabrina Harris and Izzy Gan out of Crossroads, 6-1, 6-3.
"They're both strong players, they're both competitors, they have a lot of power behind their shots," Crescenta Valley Coach Sarah Wiggins said. "They've had a lot of experience as singles players. They were able to overpower the girls today and what I hope to work on in the next two weeks is a little more doubles play, cut down on the unforced errors and see if we can get them to the net and construct more doubles points.
"Things will get tougher as we go and there's some really great doubles teams out there."
Two area singles players also competed at Whittier Narrows on Friday, but neither Flintridge Prep junior Kira Lee nor Crescenta Valley senior Erin LeVoir were able to advance to the round of 16.
Lee, the No. 1 player out of the Prep League, improved on last season's second-round showing by reaching the third round, where she was defeated by San Marino's Sarah Gaeler, 6-0, 6-1.
"She's a buzzsaw," Prep Coach Ron Catano said of Lee's opponent, the No. 2 player out of the Rio Hondo League. "I don't think she was that disappointed just because [Gaeler] was playing so good. There was not a lot she could do. She did her best and just really couldn't do much against Sarah."
Lee reached the third round via a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Inland Valley League No. 2 Kara Figueroa out of Ramona Convent followed by a second-round win over Foothill League No. 1 Anne Susdorf of Hart, 6-3, 6-4.
"She was happy about [making the] third round and happy about how she did," Catano said. "She's looking forward to her senior year making it to the fourth round."
LeVoir, the Pacific League's No. 2, fell in the second round to Gaeler, 6-0, 6-0, but not before beating Olympic League No. 1 Sarah Anderson of Whittier Christian, 7-5, 6-4, in what Wiggins deemed a first-round upset.
"She was not supposed to win that, [Anderson] is a good player," Wiggins said of LeVoir, who rallied from a 5-2 deficit to take the first game. "Erin fights. You have to beat Erin, she does not beat herself. She gives her all and if she can't win one way, she tries to figure out another way to win."