NORTHEAST GLENDALE — The veterans of the Flintridge Prep girls' tennis team rallied their squad together after a close, nonleague match against Milken Community at the Scholl Canyon Tennis Center Wednesday.
Prep improved its record to 2-1 with a down-to-the-wire victory over Milken, 9-9 (65-63). The Rebels still haven't seen the team bond this year, which is why they called the post-match meeting.
"We started out really fragmented [this season] and we are really trying to bring it all together because the season is really getting going now," said Kira Lee, half of Prep's No. 1 doubles team with Roya Gheissari Wednesday.
Flintridge Prep Coach Ron Catano was happy his veterans took charge and called the meeting.
"The team said exactly what I was going to say," Catano said. "For them to hear it from the better players on the team, it has more of an impact because they are being held accountable by their teammates."
Granted, the absence of Jenise Vargas, Prep's No. 2 singles player who's missed all three matches so far this year with a wrist injury, has made things tough on the Rebels, forcing players to step up and play outside their normal slots.
Freshman Andrea Kevakian is one of those players, filling the Rebels' No. 1 singles slot with Vargas out and Lee in the doubles lineup. Lee said she wants to return to singles, but a knee injury may keep her in doubles a while longer.
"It has been a little overwhelming, but I am trying to handle it as best as I can," Kevakian said.
Kevakian handled the pressure fine Wednesday, sweeping all three of her opponents, 6-0. Lee and Gheissari also swept, defeating Zoe Lewin and Rachel Weitzman and Morgan Brady and Rachel Zucker, Milken's No. 2 and 3 doubles teams, respectively, 6-0, and Ally Zucker and Emily Plutsky, 6-1.
"[Kevakian's] sort of replaced Kira's ability to sweep singles from last year," Catano said. "We moved Kira to doubles and that gave us more balance."
The real hero Wednesday was Miah Webb, Prep's No. 2 singles player, as she won her last two sets of the day against Shelby Peris and Jenna Goldstein, 7-5, and 6-1, respectively, after falling to Allie Peris, 6-3, in her first set.
"Today was the first day [Webb] actually played well," Catano said. "She's a freshman and I think it was more nerves the first few games. She was trying to get comfortable. Without her today, we don't win."
Catano said playing without Vargas, along with the emergence of Kevakian and Webb, has made Prep a much deeper team than it was entering the season. Vargas could also rejoin the Rebels as early as next week, Catano said.
"It would make us so much better," said Catano in reference to Vargas' return. "She's our second best player."
Vargas could start out playing in doubles, though, Catano said. Either way, her return is sure to give Prep a boost.
Still, the Rebels weren't content to sit by and wait for Vargas' return to get better, which is why they called the meeting after the game.
"[This season] started out a little rocky," Lee said. "We needed everyone to get into a serious team mentality."