A fight for playoffs on courts

With the final two automatic playoff spots from the Pacific League expected to be up for grabs, the Glendale High and Hoover boys' tennis teams figure to be in the mix.

Arcadia and Burroughs are expected to finish among the top two squads in the league with balanced and experienced lineups, leaving the Nitros and Tornadoes jockeying for playoff positioning and adding more spice to the cross-town rivalry.

How the Nitros and Tornadoes respond will likely be determined on the depth in their respective lineups.

At Glendale, the Nitros lost No. 1 singles player Nick Shamma, who is being home schooled. It's left Glendale Coach Bob Davidson in search of a suitable replacement.

"It's a major loss and he's somebody you can't replace," said Davidson, whose team placed third in league last season and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs. "He was one of the better singles players in the entire league.

"So, now we'll look to find somebody else to put in that spot."

In recent seasons, the Nitros have had some stellar doubles teams to help them qualify for the postseason. Though they lost their top doubles team of All-Area honorees Elliot Kim and Jeff Asano to graduation, the Nitros will turn to their new No. 1 tandem of Sam Sarian and Rene Glandian for support.

"We are trying to get them to play more consistently," Davidson said. "They played great toward the end of last season and we want to get them back to that level again."

Hoover, which finished fifth in league before receiving an at-large berth into the Division II playoffs, will return the bulk of its lineup. Among those who will be back include junior singles player Oleg Simonyan, who was a driving force in helping the Tornadoes qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Simonyan advanced to the Pacific League championship, losing to All-Area Boys' Tennis Player of the Year Garrett Auproux of Burroughs. Simonyan, an All-Area selection, concluded last season with a 35-15 record after his first appearance in the CIF Individuals.

In addition to Simonyan, Hoover will bring back singles player Emile Ohanian and doubles players Yeprem Chavdarian, Vardan Adzhinyan, Alex Karibyan and Artur Arutyunyan.

It's a lineup that might need some fine tuning in certain spots, but one that Hoover Coach Julie Hoppe said she's comfortable sending between the baselines.

"We have a lot of experience and that will be key," said Hoppe, the reigning All-Area Boys' Tennis Coach of the Year. "Hopefully it will be the lineup that we'll have all season and one that will hopefully get us to the playoffs outright."

Flintridge Prep also qualified for the Division II playoffs last season, losing in the first round. The Rebels lost plenty of their starting lineup to graduation, but will look to usher in a new era of younger players ready to grab the baton in junior singles players Albert Lee and Koby Hayashi and sophomore singles athlete William Dixon. They will also have a doubles team that will feature freshmen Alex Khalsa and Reilly Dolleska.

Flintridge Prep Coach Ron Catano said the long-term goal for the Rebels is to qualify for the playoffs. However, Catano said it might take a couple of weeks to determine if the Rebels will be a postseason contender.

"I'd say it's probably 50-50 that we'll make the playoffs," said Catano, whose team took second in the Prep League last season. "I know that we'll be in a lot of matches.

"It's just a matter of can our guys adjust to the next level."

St. Francis and Crescenta Valley will look to reach the postseason, something the Golden Knights and Falcons didn't accomplish last season.

St. Francis, which took fourth in the Mission League, will look to continue building toward the future. The Golden Knights will return senior singles player John Kazanjian, along with junior singles player Christopher Grosuevor and sophomore singles athlete Alex Kavakian. The trio will be joined by sophomore Christian Estebe, who will see time at singles and doubles.

"We have only one senior, so our future is looking pretty good," St. Francis Coach Ron Zambrano said. "We can't wait for the season to start."

Crescenta Valley will look to rebound after finishing sixth in the Pacific League last season. The Falcons figure to show improvement, as they will have a team that will feature mostly juniors and seniors under the direction of Coach Sarah Wiggins.

Crescenta Valley should be strong at doubles, where it will feature seniors Tim Chong and Justin Chung and juniors Allen Chang and James Ho. The Falcons will also have junior Patrick Meserkhani, who will play singles and doubles.

"We plan on being a competitive team," Wiggins said. "We'll put together the best team that we possibly can."

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