The La Cañada High boys' tennis team will look to do some damage in the CIF Southern Section Division I team playoffs after failing to send any players to CIF Individuals out of the Rio Hondo League Tournament on Thursday.
The Spartans haven't made it easy on themselves though, finishing third in league after losing to Temple City, 11-7, April 27 in their last match of the regular season. As a third-place finisher, La Cañada will likely face another league's champion in the playoffs.
The hope is the playoff experience, win or lose, will pay off in the long run for a Spartans' squad that boasts plenty of talent which will return for another run next year.
“This is more of a rebuilding year, getting everyone together again, and hopefully next year we'll be really good,” said Josh Kim, La Cañada's No. 1 singles player, who returned to action April 27 after sitting out with an injury.
No Spartans placed in the top two at the league tournament at Live Oak Park in Temple City on Thursday — a requirement to advance to CIF Individuals. Kim in singles, along with Michael Choi and Tyler Jones, La Cañada's No. 1 doubles team, were one step away though, as both took home third-place medals.
Kim won his first two matches against South Pasadena players Nick Leung (8-1) and Sean Wang (8-3) Wednesday. He ran into the tournament's No. 1 singles player, San Marino's Johnny Wang, in the semifinals the next day, though. Kim battled but dropped both sets to Wang, the eventual tournament champion, 6-1, 6-0.
Spartans’ Coach Will Moravec knew Kim had his hands full against Wang.
“Johnny Wang just doesn't miss, he's just a total human ball machine,” Moravec said.
Kim rebounded in the third-place match against Temple City's Lestter Yeh, winning both sets, 6-3, 7-5.
Choi and Jones were reunited for the league tournament after experimenting with several doubles partners this season. The pair said they feel most comfortable together and it showed, as the duo advanced to the second day of competition as well, defeating Temple City's Harvey Gan and Thomas Choi (8-3) and San Marino's Mark Lew and Koji Semba (8-5).
La Cañada's top pair met their match in the semifinals against the Titans' Robert Carter and Nicolas Splichal, the tournament's top seed. Choi and Jones got an early 3-2 edge before Carter and Splichal started clicking, winning 10 of the next 11 games for a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
The third-place contest against Temple City’s Leo Yan and Boris Law, was tough, but Choi and Jones bounced back to take both sets, 7-6, 7-5, which impressed Moravec.
“They're playing their best tennis of the year right now,” Moravec said of Choi and Jones.
Liwon Lim and Lehoo Lim, La Cañada's No. 2 doubles team, were bounced in the second round of the doubles tournament by Carter and Splichal (8-4) after defeating South Pasadena's Aaron Weiner and Krishna Mocherla (8-6) in the first round.
The Spartans' No. 2 and 3 singles players, Andre Danuns and Ryan Lee, each won their first-round matches. Lee defeated South Pasadena's Scott Richards (8-2) before falling to San Marino's James Wade (8-0) in the second round. Danuns beat the Rams' Johnny Wang (8-5) before losing to Yeh (8-2) in the second round.
Danuns still liked what he saw from his teammates throughout the tournament though, as the Spartans prepare for the playoffs.
“We've been improving as the season goes by,” Danuns said. “Both our singles and doubles are at their highest level right now.”