Things didn't start out well for the La Cañada High boys' tennis team in its home match against Rio Hondo League rival South Pasadena Friday.
The Spartans were playing without their regular No. 1 singles player, Joshua Kim, who was out with an injury, and Andre Danuns, filling in at the top spot, was down, 4-0, against the Tigers' Sean Wang in his first set of the day.
Momentum began shifting back to La Cañada, however, as Danuns fought his way back in the set, tying it up at 6-6 and battling his way to a 7-6 win. That helped the Spartans pull out an 11-7 victory.
"It would be match-point for me, and then him, but neither of us could finish it, so we kept going back and forth on match-points. It was just a mental challenge," said Danuns, admitting he wasn't playing his best in the set.
The next two sets came much more easily, as Danuns won them both, 6-1, sweeping all three of his opponents. The performance impressed Spartans Coach Will Moravec.
"It's easy to come back and get hot when you're playing well. He didn't have his game today but he still hung in there and played well," Moravec said.
The Spartans needed every singles win they could get, as South Pasadena shifted its usual No. 1 singles player, Ben Charney, to doubles.
"When I saw Ben playing doubles, I knew we were in trouble on the doubles side," Moravec said. "I was really hoping we were going to win enough singles points because I knew Ben would sweep doubles."
Moravec got that wish, as La Cañada won six of nine singles sets, offsetting Charney and teammate Sam Young's three wins, 6-5, 6-5, 6-3. In the end, Moravec felt moving Charney to doubles played in La Cañada's favor because it weakened South Pasadena's singles.
The Spartans' victory improved them to 12-4 (5-2 in league) after defeating Mark Keppel, 13-5, on April 18 and Monrovia, 12-6, April 20.
The usual No. 1 doubles team for La Cañada, Michael Choi and Tyler Jones, didn't team up again on Friday, as Moravec flipped the duo, putting Liwon Lin with Choi and Ryan Lee with Jones.
"I'm going to keep my doubles like it was today. I like what I saw," said Moravec, as both teams won two of their three sets, as Choi and Lin went 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, and Jones and Lee went 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
The Spartans hit the road to face Pasadena High at 3:30 p.m. today in their final match before the Rio Hondo League tournament, which takes place at noon May 4 and 5. Danuns thinks his team is ready for the tournament.
"The most important thing is playing well at the end of the season, not the beginning. It's just progression and getting better and mentally tougher as you go along," Danuns said. "We're playing better, at a higher level now."