Locals set to tackle individual success

GLENDALE — During a perhaps surprising run to the Pacific League finals, Hoover High's Oleg Simonyan proved himself to be one of the top players in his league and the area.

On Friday, he'll get his chance to prove himself against the best that the CIF has to offer in the CIF Individuals Tournament.

"I'm happy for him," said Tornadoes Coach Julie Hoppe of Simonyan earning a spot in the CIF tournament. "He worked hard to get there. He kept improving throughout the season.

"It's always great when you have a kid who wants it and works hard."

Simonyan will be joined by Flintridge Prep's doubles team of Eric Kazangian and Kent Byun as locals representing their respective teams on Friday.

Simonyan, Byun and Kazangian are all set to play today at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center in South El Monte. Check-in time is 8:30 a.m. and, as is customary, players learn of their draws shortly thereafter. Should they advance to the round of 32, it will take place on May 26 at Whittier Narrows.

While Simonyan's ascent and Hoover's first postseason appearance as a team since 2003 have pleased the Tornadoes, a 6-9 season overall and a 12-6 opening-round loss in the playoffs didn't leave Rebels Coach Ron Catano satisfied with his team's campaign. But a strong run by Kazangian and Byun might salvage that.

"I think if they can sort of get in a zone and win a few matches, that would definitely make the season and end the year on the right note," Catano said.

As a tandem, Byun, who was absent due to academics during the Rebels' playoff loss, and Kazangian went 34-5 overall and 13-2 in the Prep League, which has CIF Individual entries based on record rather than a tournament.

"Their chemistry is really good together," Catano said. "It was just hard to always keep them together."

On many an occasion, Catano chose to play Kazangian in singles and Byun with a different partner in the hope of getting more set wins by spreading out their talents.

Catano believes that the duo has what it takes to make a CIF run, provided it brings its best game.

"They have the game to do it, it's just if they're strong mentally," Catano said. "At that level in the tournament, everybody's good, it's just if they can stay calm."

Simonyan, who's posted a 39-14 record, also has ambition of a possible CIF run, as Hoppe said he's not simply happy just to be there.

"He wants to go as deep as he can and he definitely thinks he can get past the first round," Hoppe said. "He's really motivated. He's gonna fight. He's kinda peaking at the right time; he's really playing his best tennis of the year."

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