LA CANADA — On the brink of achieving the goal it set for itself at the beginning of the playoffs, a strong first round was just what the La Cañada High boys' tennis team needed to calm its nerves.
Pulling out three sets that could have gone either way, the Spartans won five of six first-round sets that set them on a path to a 12-6 victory against Crean Lutheran in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs Friday at La Cañada High.
"The first round is what set us up," La Cañada Coach Will Moravec said. "Unless something drastic happened we were all set."
La Cañada (13-3) moved on to the quarterfinals, something it also did in 2010 when it last won a postseason match prior to this year. The Spartans will face the same team they did three years ago in the elite eight of Division II, second-seeded Palm Desert, which defeated Chadwick, 17-1, Friday.
Perhaps the most dramatic set of the day came in the first round. La Cañada ace Josh Kim found himself down, 2-0, to Crean Lutheran's Justin Zhang, who filled in at No. 1 singles with the Saints' regular ace opting to compete in another tournament.
"I didn't string any other rackets so I had one other cracked-up, old racket," Kim said.
Kim bounced back and tied the set at two games before he broke the string on his tennis racket. The senior dropped two of the next three games to find himself down, 4-3, playing with his old racket with a cracked frame.
"I was kind of lucky to win," said Kim, adding the cracked racket gave him less control, but he didn't want to play with another teammate's racket. "I just like my racket better."
Kim showed that by sweeping the next three points to grab a 6-4 win. He defeated his other opponents with a pair of 6-1 wins while playing with the broken-down instrument.
The Spartans won six of nine singles sets against Crean Lutheran (13-4) with Ryan Lee, who played through a hurt wrist, with two sets, 6-1, 6-1, and got its five other wins in doubles after there was a shake-up with the teams.
Leeho Lim and Patrick Finnagin were put together as La Cañada's top doubles team after Harrison Zuk, Lim's regular partner on the No. 1 team, was out of town.
"We hadn't played before, but [Moravec and I] both came to a mutual decision," Lim said. "Patrick is a good doubles player, so I have no complaints."
The duo dropped its first set, 6-3, but rebounded with 6-2, 6-3 wins. Finnagin, a sophomore, added Friday brought a little more pressure than he's accustomed to, but he settled in well.
"I have never played with a lefty before but we got it together in the last two sets," Finnagin said.
Joe Song and Liwon Lim, the Spartans' second doubles squad, also won two sets by identical 6-1 scores.
The Spartans also got a win each from Chris Madsen (6-3) and Chris Walch and Woo Jin Jung (6-4).