Ace-less Rebels tennis move on with new coach

After it stood to return two top-tier singles players, it appeared the Flintridge Prep girls' tennis team was set to build on an impressive 2011 season in which it enjoyed an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.

Andrea Kevakian took over as the Rebels' ace last year as a freshman and led them to a second-place finish in the Prep League. She posted a 54-3, 30-0 in league record and advanced to the third round of the CIF Individual Tournament.

New Prep Coach Patty Baron, who takes over for Ron Catano, figured to have one of — if not the best — singles lineups in the area with former All-Area standout Jenise Vargas entering her senior year after she battled a wrist injury as a junior.

But, Kevakian and Vargas didn't show up for the Rebels' first day of practice last week.

"Neither one of them are back so far," said Baron, whose squad went 14-5, 8-2 in league in 2011. "I had heard all about them before I got here, but I am not sure if Andrea is coming back or not. Her [personal] coach has flipped her whole schedule around. It's the same thing with Jenise.

"Right now I am going under the assumption I do not have them so it looks like I will be building my singles roster."

Baron will also rely on her doubles teams this year, particularly Abby Letts and Young-In Kim, who were the Rebels' top pairing in 2011. Annie Lowery and Maya Dunn will likely fill in as Prep's No. 2 doubles team with Ester Jun and Eirene Kim giving Baron some flexibility, as both are versatile enough to play singles and doubles.

"My goal is just to hopefully have the doubles team carry the singles," said Baron, who is moving junior Roya Ghessari from doubles to No. 1 singles. "Roya will hopefully carry the singles players and hopefully I can fill in from there."

La Cañada High also lost two players from last year in Sydney Fischel, who played No. 1 singles and missed significant time with a rib injury as a junior, and Rachel Wong, who played No. 3 doubles.

Spartans Coach Will Moravec still expects his team to pick right back up where it left off.

La Cañada returns seven of nine players, including Sawa Keymuelen and Sharon Kim, who finished strong in singles last year, and his top two doubles teams in Linnea Frazier and Alison Chang and Emily Swanson and Serena Zhang, respectively.

"We know what we have," said Moravec, whose team finished second in the Rio Hondo League last year with a 9-8, 6-2 in league record and fell to Crescenta Valley, 13-5, in the first round of the Division II playoffs. "We won't be trying to guess who goes where and stuff like that to start the season.

"We did pretty good last year, Sydney was injured a lot and we still did really well. We hope for the same."

Keymuelen takes over the No. 1 singles spot as a sophomore after she finished third in the league tournament last year with Kim taking over the second slot.

The Spartans top two doubles teams will stay the same to start the year with Lynn Gilmour also ready to pair with someone new after she doubled with Wong in 2011.

"The main thing is I just want the girls to improve," Moravec said. "I want them to be playing the best that they can be. We have a lot of cross-town rivals we are going to play in nonleague like Mayfield and Sacred Heart so we hope to do well against them."

Speaking of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Tologs Coach Ron Zambrano feels optimistic about this season after his team went 3-9, 2-8 in league to place fifth in the Mission League last year.

"Most of our good players are coming back and we are supposed to have three new freshmen that are very decent and have been playing tennis for a few years," Zambrano said.

The Tologs return a large part of their doubles lineup with seniors Alex Milat, Lara Sarkisian, Victoria McGregor and junior Julia Byrne.

"I can count on the doubles," Zambrano said. "I know they will win some matches, but what we need is to have a couple good singles players and we'll be good."

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