TEMPLE CITY — All hope of the La Cañada High girls' tennis team sending a player to the CIF Southern Section Individual Tournament this season after failing to send a member last year will rest on the shoulders of freshman Sawa Keymuelen.
Keymuelen was the only Spartan to advance to the second day of the Rio Hondo League Tournament, which began Wednesday and will continue at noon today at Live Oak Park in Temple City. Five other La Cañada players who competed Wednesday were unable to move on.
"I cannot believe it; it's the best feeling I've ever had in my tennis career," Keymuelen said. "I had no expectations coming into today, especially against these players. I saw the draw and I didn't know what I was going to do."
Several Spartans had to face players they'd never competed against after Temple City and Blair switched athletes around for the tournament. Sydney Fischel, La Cañada's No. 1 singles player, along with Linnea Frazier and Alison Chang, the Spartans' top doubles team, both won one match in the prelims.
Keymuelen, who has been La Cañada's No. 2 singles player this season, advanced through her first two sets with 8-3 wins over Monrovia's Victoria Rose and San Marino's Lauren Chang.
"Of everybody on the team, [Keymuelen] forces the other player to beat her," La Cañada Coach Will Moravec said. "She doesn't make any mistakes. Of anybody to have good wins, she's the one. I'm not surprised at all."
Keymuelen will hope for a big win in today's semifinals against top seed, Dorothy Tang of San Marino. The Spartan said she is going to use the same formula for success she used Wednesday.
"I am going to come in with no expectations, not think about it at all and play the way I did today," she said.
After missing more than half of the season with a rib injury, Fischel came back feeling healthy for the league tournament. She defeated her first opponent, Temple City's Andria Chek, 8-3, before falling behind early to Blair's Heather Shamby, and losing, 7-3.
"I wasn't expecting to come out and win today after all I've been through," Fischel said. "I just wanted to come out and play my game, play my best. After [falling behind to Shamby] I just wanted to fight."
That's exactly what Fischel did, cutting Shamby's lead to 7-6 before being eliminated from the tournament with an 8-6 loss. Fischel had never seen Shamby play after Blair forfeited its two league matches against La Cañada.
Frazier and Chang also faced an unknown opponent — Temple City's Joy Huang and Chen Liang — in the second set Wednesday, after the pair defeated Monrovia's Jamie Truong and Briana Ocampo in the first set, 8-2.
Huang and Liang played as the Rams' top two singles players all year, but were switched to doubles for the tournament. They defeated Frazier and Chang, 8-2.
"It's tough going in there blind," Frazier said. "They were really good."
Suma Gudipati, La Cañada's No. 3 singles player, along with the team of Emily Swanson and Serena Zhang and the duo of Lynn Gilmour and Rachel Wong — the Spartans' No. 2 and 3 doubles teams, respectively — were eliminated in first round action.
Gudipati fell to Temple City's Yvonne Tan, 8-4, Swanson and Zhang lost to South Pasadena's Taylor Levine and Tiffany Chen, 8-5, and Gilmour and Wong also lost to the Rams' Melody Wang and Serena Lin, 8-5
Sharon Kim, who played as the Spartans' top singles player when Fischel was out of the lineup, did not compete in the tournament because she had a test scheduled.