NORTHWEST GLENDALE — A season removed from notching an at-large bid for its first playoff berth since 2003, Hoover High's boys' tennis team isn't leaving its postseason fate to chance.
On the strength of dominant singles play, supportive doubles and a strong start, the Tornadoes downed archrival Glendale, 12-6, in Thursday's Pacific League match at Hoover to put themselves in phenomenal positioning for third place in league and one of four automatic playoff bids.
"My kids and I felt like we were the stronger team and they decided this was the one they were gonna get," said Hoover Coach Julie Hoppe, whose team won seven singles sets and also won the doubles bracket, 5-4. "They went out to take it.
"I do think it puts us in a great place for playoffs."
Hoover (6-3, 4-3 in league) and Glendale (5-4, 4-3) are now tied for third in league, but the Tornadoes have already played and lost to powerhouse Burroughs twice, while the Nitros have played and defeated sixth-place Crescenta Valley twice. Hence, the schedule ahead is in firm favor of Hoover, while the Nitros know they're in for a battle.
"You gotta give credit to [Hoover]. Their doubles played really well and their No. 1 and No. 2 singles are solid and their No. 3 had the big win," Glendale Coach Bob Davidson said. "We're just playing to get into the playoffs. Our match next week against Burbank is big. For us to think about third [place] now, we would need some outside help.
"[The Tornadoes] definitely put themselves in a great position for third after this big win."
The big win Davidson spoke of initially was Hoover No. 3 Vardan Adzhinyan's 6-1 victory in the opening round against Glendale's Mike Unanian, who was the Nitros' No. 3 Thursday, but has been their top player all season.
"Vardan stepping up and beating Mike was a huge turning point," Davidson said. "When I'm looking at all the sets we need to win, that's one I'm counting on."
Adzhinyan dropped sets to Glendale's Arin Meserkhoni and Nawat Tokatly, but his win over Unanian aided in a 5-1 first-round advantage for the Tornadoes that set the tone for the victory.
"When you're down 5-1, you're in big trouble," Davidson said.
And singles players Oleg Simonyan and Emile Ohanyan kept the Nitros in trouble all day. Simonyan swept 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, while Ohanyan got the same results with an even more impressive 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 line.
"We were excited," Simonyan said of Thursday's match. "We were ready mentally."
In doubles, Danny Kim and Arthur Arutyunyan were the catalysts for the Tornadoes' bracket's strong play, notching a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 sweep, while Eddie No and Alex Bychkoviak won a set and the Tornadoes added another win long after the match was decided when a Nitro was forced to retire due to injury.
Glendale's Danny Shafrazian and Alex Yoon won a pair of sets, while Nitros tandems Sam Sarian and Rene Glandian and Andrew Lingat and Alex Choi won a set apiece.
"We talked about how important the first round was" Hoppe said. "I think Oleg, Emile and Vardan sweeping the first round set the tone. I think it took the pressure off the doubles and they played a little more relaxed. Our doubles definitely feed off our singles play."
And the Tornadoes are clearly feeding off the momentum of last year's playoff run in the quest to improve upon their standing.
"It's really important for us," Simonyan said of improving the team's placement from last season's fifth-place mark. "We're getting better and better, we're excited about it."