LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Even though Flintridge Prep is less than a mile away and La Cañada High had faced Prep last year, Spartans No. 1 girls' tennis singles player Sawa Keymuelen felt like she was playing a foreign team when the Rebels traveled to La Cañada Friday.
That's because all three of Prep's singles players didn't return for the 2012 season after Kira Lee graduated and Andrea Kevakian and Jenise Vargas didn't return for their sophomore and senior seasons, respectively, to focus on their individual tournaments.
"I was definitely surprised [when I saw them], last year was a whole different setup," said Keymuelen, whose Spartans returned nearly their entire lineup from 2011. "I didn't play any of the same singles players [last year] as I did today. … We have all the same people and we've gotten better from last year, so we definitely had an advantage there."
The Spartans used that an advantage, along with a resilient first round in doubles to pull out the 14-4 victory over their neighbors Friday. New Rebels Coach Patty Baron still liked what she saw from her team.
"I actually have seen such a big improvement from our first match to this match," Baron said. "Even though they lost they were competing today, which is what I'm looking for. I felt very good, I had people playing all over the place today."
Baron is still experimenting to find who will step up to take over the remaining positions behind No. 1 singles player Roya Gheissari and the No. 1 doubles team of Abby Letts and Young-In Kim.
"I am, constantly [experimenting]," Baron said. "I have one definite singles player and I know I have one definite doubles team, maybe two. They're starting to jell together as a team, which is good."
La Cañada won all of three of its singles sets convincingly to open the day and pulled out two narrow wins in doubles, thanks to its No. 2 doubles team of Carly Moore and Megan Knapp (7-5) and Lynn Gilmour and Anna Dewar (6-3) in No. 3 doubles, to go into the second round up, 5-1.
"It's like with any sport, when you get a nice big cushion at the start, everyone can relax," said La Cañada Coach Will Moravec, whose team fell to Prep, 10-8, in 2011. "If we don't win those two doubles sets, it's a completely different match."
In the end, the Spartans won seven singles and seven doubles sets behind sweeps from Keymuelen, 6-2, 6-0, 6-0, and two wins from Linnea Frazier and Alison Chang, 6-0, 6-3, and Gilmour and Dewar, 6-2, 6-3, in doubles and two more wins from Suma Gudapati in singles, 6-1, 6-2.
Prep got its four wins from Gheissari, 6-0, 6-1, and Letts and In-Kim, 7-5, 6-2.