After four years with an experienced core, La Cañada High boys’ tennis coach Will Moravec will have to figure out ways to fit in quality replacements in both the singles and doubles department.
St. Francis qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs a year ago, while Flintridge Prep missed out while trying to reshape its foundation.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
Only returning a handful of players from last year’s team that advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I second round, Moravec, the 2018 All-Area Coach of the Year, looks to solve the puzzle on the fly and ultimately shore up his lineup as the season progresses.
“This is going to be a new generation, a new team,” Moravec said. “For four years, we had the heart of the team pretty much set with that class of JP McKenzie, Reid Schreck and the Lee twins. They came in as freshmen, started and played all four years.”
“We’re going to try to find out where some people belong. Last year, it was pretty easy. It was like, okay, you know the Lee twins were going to play doubles, the Llanes were going to play doubles, or Ryan [Morgan] or JP were either going to play singles. This year, we have some underclassmen and have to figure out if they can handle playing singles or they might have to play some doubles to be able to get their lens and stuff like that.”
Moravec again foresees tough competition from rival San Marino in the Rio Hondo League, but the Titans may face similar issues having also graduated a number of seniors, especially in doubles.
“Last year, we were literally points away from beating San Marino, so that’s always a goal for us,” Moravec said.
The Spartans, which finished last season with an 11-4 record, came close to the Titans in both of their matches last season, succumbing to a pair of 10-8 losses to finish runner-up in the Rio Hondo League with a 6-2 league record.
To maintain consistency, Moravec will turn to a group of sophomores to help with the workload.
A crucial returner will be lleague singles champion Ryan Morgan, who is marked for the No. 1 singles spot.
Morgan, the 2018 All-Area Boys’ Singles Tennis Player of the Year, brings valuable experience that included a run to the round of 32 in the CIF Individual Tournament and a big victory against San Marino’s No. 1 player Leo Wang to become La Cañada High’s first league singles champion this century.
Also returning are sophomores Ben Lee and Jack Mannion, who are slated to be Moravec’s No. 1 doubles pair, and are looking to fill a spot left from Nicholas and Ian Lee — the 2018 All-Area Doubles Team of the Year and league tournament doubles runner-up.
“Our No. 1 doubles is looking pretty good, and obviously Ryan Morgan is looking good,” Moravec said. “We’ll have to sort of decide what we’re going to do after that.”
Moravec adds a pair of experienced, USTA players in Anthony Hanna and Kyle Sahara with hopes the duo will bolster the lineup.
Senior Jared Anh and sophomore sibling Derek Anh will be an addition to the doubles core, with the elder Anh set for a No. 2 doubles spot.
With the rest of the lineup still under consideration, Moravec will use the time before the start of league contention to try to solve the conundrum, but it’s not a spot he’s unfamiliar with.
“Last year, we had a bunch of depth,” Moravec said. I think, at the beginning of the season, we didn’t have the same lineup for the first six or seven games. Some of the guys that were playing doubles had a chance to play singles. Our motto last year was we should win no matter what our lineup is.
“Everybody’s got talent. It doesn’t matter if you were playing singles or doubles, everyone was good enough to win at that position, so, this year, we’re going to have to find that out. We’ll see.”
St. Francis will count on standout Ian Freer and a mix of sophomores and juniors to keep it on the right track. The Golden Knights finished 5-10, 4-6 in the Mission League last season for third place before succumbing to Anaheim Canyon in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
“I think we have a group that’s very motivated to improve,” St. Francis coach Ron Zambrano said. “I like our talent a lot and I think we’ll be a little better than we were last year.”
Freer, who teamed with his brother, Jack, to earn All-Area Boys’ Doubles Team of the Year in 2017, will anchor the lineup in singles. Also looking to make their marks for the Golden Knights are senior Daniel Crump in singles and doubles and the sophomore brother duo of Cody and Connor Basso in doubles.
Roger Hollomand starts his second season as coach at Flintridge Prep, which went 4-8, 3-3 in the Prep League for third place last season.
Finishing below .500 doesn’t appear to be a negative for the Rebels. Hollomand said about 25 players tried out leading into this season, giving the Rebels depth.
“We basically have a new crop of players to go along with some of our returners,” Hollomand said. “It’s encouraging and you need to have depth.”
Flintridge Prep brings back a singles lineup that will include senior Gillis Linde and junior Derek Tran, a former All-Area Singles Player of the Year. Also looking to make an impact for the Rebels are senior David Kim and sophomore Andrew Megerdichian in doubles.
After competing in the Prep League for decades, Flintridge Prep will now be in the five-team Liberty League with Pasadena Poly, Chadwick, Firebaugh and Buckley. All but Buckley were in the Prep League last season.