LA CRESCENTA — With a full squad, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ tennis team felt confident it could compete in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Falcons were without one of their top players in Patrick Meserkhani for Tuesday’s wild-card matchup with visiting Redondo Union, a Bay League at-large entrant.
Crescenta Valley Coach Sam Hyun, who is in his first year at the helm, had to switch players around and saw his unforeseen new lineup affect the team’s strategy negatively in a 16-2 season-ending defeat.
“We emphasize doubles,” said Hyun, who was informed Meserkhani couldn’t play due to being sick. “Against their No. 1, we had a hard time getting games. In singles we want to take out their No. 2 and No. 3, but we just don’t have a good singles player.”
Meserkhani had been paired with Greg Manouchehri throughout the year and the two were solid as the team’s No. 1. Against Redondo Union, Hyun moved his usual singles competitor Aren Abrahamian in place of Meserkhani, leaving the Falcons thinner in the singles bracket and changing the team’s overall chemistry.
Redondo Union (15-6) took advantage and won all nine sets in singles, led by No. 1 Derek Levchenko’s 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 sweep of Crescenta Valley’s Young Woo, Edward Kim and Ted Yang, who substituted for No. 3 Brandon Hong.
Woo and Kim were substitutes in the team’s season opener on Feb. 28, but with Abrahamian and James Ho in doubles and Albert Chtchyan not on the team since March 14, the Falcons needed to plug in players and fill holes.
The inexperience resulted in Crescenta Valley garnering just 12 total games in singles competition against No. 2 Pablo Trevino and No. 3 Brett Ishihara.
Manouchehri and Abrahamian won the first set for the Falcons in the latter stages of the match with a 6-2 win over Redondo Union’s No. 2 team of Sho Nioka and Ryan Lee. Crescenta Valley had dropped the first 15 sets of the match.
“Their singles are very strong, but doubles … we could have won all three sets,” Manouchehri said. “My partner was sick, so we had to play with our No. 1 singles player. We played well in the last set and it’s a good way to leave the day.”
Robert Lee and James Ho won the other set for the Falcons, defeating No. 3 Maheer Eusufzai and Ash Nair, 7-5, in the match’s final set.
Redondo Union’s No. 1 duo of Christian Grantz and Sean Mitchell finished the day with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 sweep.
Redondo Union will travel again for a first round match Wednesday, as it takes on the tournament’s top seed, University (16-0), winner of the Pacific Coast League.
Crescenta Valley finished the season with a 6-9 record in Hyun’s first season after taking over for Sarah Wiggins, who coached the squad for 12 seasons prior.
“We’re learning and will be better next season,” Hyun said.