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Girls’ Tennis Preview: La Cañada embraces new division hurdles

Annabelle Kevakian is a key returner this season for the La Cañada High girls’ tennis team.
Annabelle Kevakian is a key returner this season for the La Cañada High girls’ tennis team.
(File Photo)

It doesn’t seem like its been a year since the La Cañada High girls’ tennis team won its first CIF Southern Section title since 1977 after securing the Division II plaque in 2018.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and Flintridge Prep did not experience the postseason. With both squads featuring some new additions, along with the return of several key players, both programs have set team and individual goals for the 2019 campaign.

Here is a closer look at the teams.

LA CAÑADA

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The Spartans have long been over their celebration and it’s now time to set their sights on a new season. Now, the focus is geared toward two new challenges.

One obstacle is the attempt to dethrone longtime rival and Rio Hondo League champion San Marino. That will be the Spartans’ main target of the season.

The other hurdle is journeying through the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

“We’re still looking for that elusive league title,” said Moravec, whose team finished 14-4 on its way to the CIF Southern Section Division II crown last season. “We always have to start out with that and try to get a win over San Marino. That would be our victory for this year.

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“If you can hang with San Marino, you’re going to be one of the top teams in Southern California anyway, so that’s really the setting of the bar. That match and the league title. We’ll see. You never know.”

Notable nonleague matches include Division I opponents, with away matches against Crescenta Valley and Arcadia. The Spartans also opened the season with an away match against Division I West Ranch.

Though the Spartans graduated longtime doubles players Solenn Matuska and Ashley Chun, along with former All-Area Singles Player of the Year Sophie Mckenzie,

Moravec remains optimistic and also open-minded.

The coach is coming off of a surprise boys’ tennis season where the Spartans reached the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs.

“With the bumping of those eight teams into the Open Division, it still gives a lot of us hope,” Moravec said. “Who knows. It’s a whole new year. We lost Sophie, Ashley and Solenn, but we have four or five decent freshmen that might be as good if not better.”

Indeed, the bright side to the season is the returning core of the championship-winning team, with the experience of winning a CIF final under their belts.

Spartans senior Annabelle Kevakian will remain an integral part of the singles lineup, but the rest of the team’s roster will be up in the air.

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“Annabelle Kevakian is super solid,” Moravec said. “She’s been in singles all this time. She wants to continue her tennis ... so I know she’s working hard and will be ready to go.”

Sophomores Maya Urata and Eliana Hanna, who made it to the CIF Individuals Tournament quarterfinals last year in doubles as freshmen, might switch to singles. Urata was the No. 2 singles player in the division final and the duo won the league doubles title.

“The singles lineup is going to look pretty good,” Moravec said. “The doubles lineup is going to be interesting. We had Ashley and Solenn that were doubles teams for four years, so we have to find someone that’s going to replace them. I think these freshmen are pretty good and they can do it.”

Though the nonleague matches will help solidify the doubles teams, Moravec can count on Elise Wu and Sonia Bhaskaran among the returning seniors, as well as Artis Phillips and Natalie Son.

The Spartans also welcome a quintet of freshmen with Kylie Hwang, Alison Woo, Rylee Thornburg, Amanda Grable and Chia Matuska the latest additions to the team.

As for how the Spartans will to do one better than last season, it’s simple.

“Obviously, you probably can’t,” Moravec said.

FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY

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There might be some huge promise this season for the Tologs and veteran coach Ron Zambrano.

Flintridge Sacred Heart, which will reside in Division IV for a second straight season, will look to contend for the Sunshine League championship after going 4-9, 3-5 in league last season for fourth place. The Tologs won the Sunshine League championship outright in 2014 and shared it with immaculate Heart in 2015 before spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons in the Mission League.

“We have a nice mix of talent and we are looking pretty good,” Zambrano said. “I’ve been trying to convince the players to think big and that we can win the league championship.

“I’m very optimistic that we can win a lot of league matches and we have a good group.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart will be anchored by the senior doubles team of Meghan Sullivan and Olivia Bartamian and the junior tandem of Hayes Sullivan and Claire McDonald. They will be joined by freshman Megan Gerety in singles.

FLINTRIDGE PREP

Flintridge Prep will look different throughout its lineup this season after finishing 5-11, 0-8 in the Prep League last season.

The Rebels will bring back a couple of players and will be fairly young following the addition of several freshmen and sophomores.

It’s got second-year coach Roger Hollomand feeling positive about the program’s direction.

“I think you’ll see that we will be a well-rounded team than we’ve been in the previous couple of seasons,” said Hollomand, who piloted the school’s boys’ team to a Division IV championship in May. “We’ll have a pretty deep team and that will help us be in position to win a lot more matches. I’m excited and I think we have a team that can make the playoffs.”

Flintridge Prep, which will stay in Division IV, will be led by senior singles player Maya Khurana and junior singles athlete Audrey Oh.


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