SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — With the Glendale High boys' tennis team's season teetering on the brink of elimination going into the final round of play on Friday, it didn't take long for visiting Walnut to push the Nitros to the tipping point, winning all six sets to complete a seemingly dominant 14-4 win in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
But while the final stanza was a walkover for the Mustangs, the previous two told a different story — that of a highly competitive match that, if not for a few close sets that didn't break the Nitros' way, might have been much closer than the 8-4 advantage Walnut took into the third round.
"The score is going to look very deceiving," Glendale Coach Bob Davidson said. "Literally two or three points in the earlier rounds could have changed the whole match around."
Glendale (13-6) would lose two doubles sets in tiebreakers over the first two rounds and saw a close set between Glendale No. 2 singles freshman Nick Shamma and his counterpart Pete Taratikhumporn end in a 6-4 win for Walnut after being 4-3 in favor of Taratikhumporn with Shamma getting ready to serve.
"He was playing well," Davidson said of Shamma. "It looked like we had a chance to win that one."
That and Shamma's 6-4 second-round loss to Walnut No. 1 Frank Peng were as close as the Nitros would come to winning a singles set all day, as the Mustangs rolled to a 9-0 sweep.
In doubles, the Nitros got wins from Jeff Asano and Elliot Kim, 7-5, 6-1, Alex Levin and Edgar Hakobyan, 7-5, and Rene Glandian and Sam Sarian, 6-3, but couldn't nail down a pair of tiebreaker sets in the first and second rounds.
Glandian and Sarian were up, 5-4, and serving for the set in the first round before Steven San and Artur Tang rallied to force a tiebreaker and won, 8-6.
"At one point, it looked like the worst-case scenario would be a 3-3 tie at the end of the first round." Davidson said. "And then, all of a sudden, it's flipped to 2-4. That was huge.
"We thought we had a chance to go up, 4-2, in the first round, which certainly would have turned the whole thing around."
In the second round, Levin and Hakobyan fell to San and Tang, 7-6 (7-4), to put Glendale down, 8-4, after two rounds. The Mustangs' No. 3 tandem would win all three of its sets via tiebreaker, outlasting Asano and Kim, 7-6 (6-3) in the day's final set.
"Both of them were crucial," Davidson said of the first two tiebreaker losses. "The wind kind of went out of our sails there when they went up, 4-8. They got really confident and cocky and our guys were just kind of discouraged. I was proud that we kept fighting, but you could just feel the momentum had changed at that point.
"But the bottom line is they are very, very strong in singles. That was tough matchup for us and all the sets we lost in doubles were very close."