Golden Knights win opener over Rebels

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Paced by a convincing showing in the doubles bracket, the St. Francis High tennis team had little trouble notching a victory in the season opener over a familiar opponent in Flintridge Prep.

The Golden Knights dropped one doubles set and saw clutch play from their singles competitors en route to a 13-5 nonleague win over the Rebels at Scholl Canyon Tennis Center on Friday afternoon.

Despite the loss, Prep Coach Ron Catano took away positives in some of his young players getting a match in.

"We have some new players, so it's good to get that first one out of the way," said Catano, who is in his fourth year at the helm and coached the Rebels to the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs last season. "They can be more comfortable and won't have to fight the nerves. And over the next few matches, it won't come as a surprise when facing good players."

Early on in the match between the two La Cañada Flintridge-based squads, St. Francis Coach Ron Zambrano saw his No. 1 team of Darren Kunitake and Daniel Ishmael drop a set to the Flintridge Prep No. 1 team of Reilly Dolleska and Alex Khalsa.

Before leaving to attend to other obligations, Zambrano predicted his Golden Knights wouldn't drop any more sets in doubles play.

And his players came through for him as Kunitake and Ishmael rebounded and posted a 6-1 win over Lawrence Yu and Sean Kilmer. Alfred Lee and Eugene Kim substituted for the team's top duo and defeated Morgan Keanne and Raphael Dreyfuss, 6-0.

St. Francis' No. 2 team of Andrew Kavakian and Kristian Esteve swept their three sets, 6-2, 6-1, and 6-1, as did Robert O'Brien and Amon Baha, who finished the day with scores of 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.

St. Francis' No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, John Kazanjian and Christopher Grosuevor faced daunting deficits in each player's first sets.

Kazanjian trailed, 5-2, to Flintridge Prep No. 1 Albert Lee before fighting back and taking the set in a tiebreak. He would go on to win all three of his sets, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 over Lee, Koby Hayashi and William Dixon.

Grosuevor gave up the first four points of his set against Hayashi, but settled down and prevailed for a 7-6 (7-4) win before defeating Dixon, 6-1, but losing to Lee in the final set.

"I wasn't believing in my shots, and then when I was down 0-4, I decided I may as well get some practice in," Grosuevor said. "It started to work against him when I wasn't trying as hard and I came back, played well in the tie break and finished strong."

"If we would have won those two tiebreaks, it would have helped a lot — big time," Catano said.

Lee, Hayashi and Dixon each garnered a set over St. Francis' No. 3 Alex Kavakian, 7-6, 6-0, 6-2 respectively.

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