Area group advances to Pacific League tennis semifinals

PASADENA — There are a few area girls' tennis players with experience, and some who will be making their first appearance, in the Pacific League Tournament semifinals.

The individuals were able to advance in league competition after fine showings Monday in the league preliminaries at Pasadena High.

PHOTOS: Pacific League CIF semifinals girls' tennis

Two singles players and a doubles team from Burbank High, one Hoover singles athlete and a doubles squad from Crescenta Valley advanced to the semifinal round at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Pasadena High. The finals in singles and doubles will be contested following the semifinals.

"We have been pretty good at getting players to the semifinals the past few years," Burbank Coach Loi Phan said. "We're hoping this year to hopefully have some league champions."

A seasoned veteran of the league semifinals is Burbank senior Meredy Gharabegi, who will be making her fourth straight trip to the semifinals in doubles. The past two seasons, Gharabegi and teammate Ashley Basco — who graduated — advanced to the finals, losing both years.

This season, with teammate Elizabeth Sanchez, Gharabegi hopes she can get over the hump and finally win a league title.

"I like our chances. We've been playing well together," said Gharabegi, who played singles the majority of the season and helped the Bulldogs win a share of the league team title. "Even though we didn't get a chance to practice a lot together, we make a pretty good team and we played together today. We are pretty comfortable right now."

Gharabegi and Sanchez, the No. 1 seed, defeated the No. 8 Arcadia team of Jenny Yang and Shelly Park, 8-2, in a second-round match Monday. In the first round, the Bulldogs duo easily took care of No. 16 Alene Tashjian and Taylor White of Pasadena, 8-0.

Two individuals who also have their share of experience in the league final four are Crescenta Valley's Jackie Dilanchyan and Alexa Gregorian. A year ago, Dilanchyan made it to the semifinals in doubles and Gregorian advanced as a singles player. The Falcons tandem, seeded No. 2, began the day with an 8-2 victory against No. 15 Mackenzie Emi and Leona Torosian of Burbank, 8-2, before dispatching of No. 10 Alison Limfat and Firdaus Jahangir of Arcadia, 8-5.

"I really like playing singles because I like that I'm just out there by myself and everything relies on me," Gregorian said. "But Jackie and I are best friends, so it makes it easy to play with her. I think we know one another's game so well and that helps us on the court."

Wednesday's doubles semifinals will pit Gharabegi and Sanchez against No. 4 Tina Yueh and Mintra Janopas of Arcadia, while Dilanchyan and Gregorian will face No. 3 Ashley Gao and Tiffany Sieh of Arcadia.

Earning a win in the opening round of doubles was No. 5 Angela Seo and Ashley An of Crescenta Valley, which defeated No. 9 Amani Story and Dani Fabian of Glendale, 8-2, before falling in the second round to Yueh and Janopas, 8-2. The Burbank team of Gabrielle Markari and Veronica Mendoza, at No. 6, beat No. 11 Katie Maskal and Annie Park of Crescenta Valley, 8-2, before losing to Gao and Hsieh.

Suffering first-round losses were No. 13 Amanda Lieu and Ruth Ach of Glendale, 8-0, No. 14, Kristen Bark and June Park of Burroughs, 8-0, and No. 7 Alin Torosyan and Natalie Khourdjian of Hoover, 8-3.

Three area singles players, Lilit Vardanyan and Nicole Merrit of Burbank and Hoover's Sara Kim, will be getting their first crack at the league semifinals.

Maybe the most surprising entrant — to herself at least — in the final four is Kim, the No. 5 seed.

"I didn't really think I was going to make it this far…I'm really surprised," she said. "I just wanted to make it to the second round and hopefully I wouldn't get bageled. I guess I did better than I expected today."

Kim began the tournament with an 8-0 win against No. 12 Kellie Gong of Glendale, 8-0. She then posted and upset victory against No. 4 Veronika Galstyan of Glendale, 8-6.

Kim will have a tough task in the final four against No. 1 seed Vardanyan of Burbank. Vardanyan, who has only one loss to her record this season, defeated No. 16 Kelly Chang of Arcadia, 8-0, in the first round and then took care of No. 9 Selin Auvazian of Crescenta Valley, 8-1.

"It was nice to be able to play singles," said Vardanyan, who, because of an injury, had to play doubles in last year's league tournament. "I have been playing singles for over 10 years and I feel more comfortable playing singles.

"I am going to go out and play [Tuesday] so I can be ready on Wednesday."

Despite being a freshman, Bulldogs' Merrit looked like a veteran on the court Monday. After defeating No. 14 Elizabeth Lim of Crescenta Valley, 8-0, she punched her card to the final four with an 8-1 win against No. 6 Chellie Nayar of Pasadena.

"I was really scared going in, it being my first time, but I was excited as well," Merrit said. "My colleagues were telling me how exciting it was and I just wanted to experience that."

In the other singles semifinal, Merrit will face No. 2 Sharlene Song of Arcadia, who defeated Oahn Nguyen of Burroughs, 8-0, in the second round.

Earning first-round wins in singles was Galstyan, who defeated No. 13 Natalie Davidian of Crescenta Valley, 8-1, and Nguyen, who beat No. 10 Natalie Pickens of Burbank, 8-2. Suffering a loss in opening-round was No. 15 Yeva Petrosyan of Burbank, 8-0.

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