United Hoover tennis team looking to take next step

After grabbing the final automatic playoff berth out of the Pacific League and winning a postseason match, the Hoover High boys' tennis team achieved satisfaction last season.

While the Tornadoes will eye a return trip to the postseason, the expectations have been raised this season under coach Julie Hoppe.

“We want to go farther than we did last season,” said Hoppe, whose team dropped a first-round match to second-seeded Santa Monica. “We feel like we have a team that can do that.

“The practices have been extremely competitive, which brings out the best in each player. We talk about how we feel about league and trying to be able to compete for first place. So, things are good from the team’s standpoint. We know going in that Arcadia is always strong and Burroughs will be up there.”

Hoover should receive a boost with the return of standout singles players Emile Ohanyan and Oleg Simonyan. Ohanyan advanced to the semifinals in the league tournament last season.

“Emile and Oleg push each other and are always very competitive,” Hoppe said. “They inspire the other guys on the team to get points in their sets and there’s good dynamics having both of them.”

Hoover’s top doubles team will feature Artur Arutunyan and Danny Kim. They will be joined by Chris Ghadimi and Hrant Agakhanyan, who will provide Hoover versatility in both singles and doubles.

Glendale was the other local team to make an appearance in the playoffs last season. The Nitros finished third in the Pacific League before falling in the first round to top-seeded and eventual champion Palm Desert.

Glendale lost several starters to graduation, yet coach Bob Davidson said there are several capable replacements who are in line to fill the void.

“We have some good players who we think can do things at the next level,” Davidson said. “We don’t have a lot of depth, so that could be a weakness.

“The success of our team will come down to No. 3 singles and Nos. 2-3 doubles and how they come along. That’s where we are in untested waters.”

Glendale will bring back No. 1 singles player Arin Meserkhani and No. 2 singles athlete Nawaf Tokatly. The Nitros’ No. 1 doubles team will consist of Sam Sarian and Michael Akopians.

Davidson said the Nitros will shoot for no worse than a fourth-place finish in league.

“Burroughs is in a class by themselves,” Davidson said. “Arcadia and Hoover look to be very good and Crescenta Valley will have a lot of players coming back.

“Glendale and Burbank lost a lot of talent to graduation. I want us to be in competition for a playoff spot.”

St. Francis, Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep missed the playoffs last season. Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep will have new coaches in Sam Hyun and Hratchia Sargsyan, respectively.

St. Francis will be buoyed with a starting singles lineup that will feature Kristian Estebe, Alex Kavakian and Mustafa El Harazi.

“We have three very good singles players and that’s where we will try to get most of our points,” St. Francis Coach Ron Zambrano said. “I think we can be in good shape if we can get one very good doubles team.”

Crescenta Valley will have some depth throughout its lineup, something Hyun said might have his team in contention for a playoff berth.

“We are hoping to get a top-three spot [in the Pacific League],” Hyun said.

The Falcons’ top doubles team will consist of Patrick Meserkhani and Greg Manouchehri.

Crescenta Valley’s No. 2 doubles team will be Jason Chang and Justin Chung. James Ho will be one of Crescenta Valley’s top singles players.

At Flintridge Prep, the Rebels will look to regroup under Sargsyan, who begins his first head-coaching job.

The Rebels will bring back singles players Albert Lee, Koby Hayashi and Reilly Dolleska. They will be joined by William Dixon, who will see time at singles and doubles.

“I expect a lot of concentration from them, but I also want them to have fun,” Sargsyan said. “It’s all about being able to make the little adjustments in a match and that’s where I can try to help them.”

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