Excitement is brewing on the La Cañada High tennis courts and perhaps no one is feeling it more than Spartans Coach Will Moravec, who had to calm his emotions and expectations when talking about his new lineup.
Moravec has two big reasons why he’s anxious to get the season underway. He welcomes two new top-ranked singles players in Southern California to bolster a lineup that could seriously contend with San Marino for a Rio Hondo League title for the first time since 2006.
“I know it’s not clear sailing, but I’m excited, the possibilities are way high; we have something to look forward to,” said Moravec, adding the team could be poised for a deep run in CIF Southern Section Division II.
It was knocked out in the first round and went 10-6 and took second place in league at 6-2 last year.
Expectations come thanks to the addition of sisters Cassie and Ally McKenzie, who join La Cañada for their respective sophomore and junior years after previously being home schooled. Ally enters the season at No. 22 in the United States Tennis Assn. 16-and-under singles rankings, Cassie checks in at 68th on that list and 35th in the 14-and-under singles division.
Ally’s ranking gives her an edge over San Marino sophomore Devon Jack (40th), who figures to be San Marino’s No. 1 singles player after the graduation of Dorothy Tang. With the return of its No. 1 singles player from last year, Sawa Keymeulen, La Cañada could boast the best singles lineup in the league and possibly the area.
“It really puts us way ahead, it’s like six points whenever [Ally and Cassie] play, and with Sawa, now that’s eight points right there,” Moravec said of his singles lineup.
La Cañada returns two of its three starting doubles teams from a year ago. Seniors Emily Swanson and Serena Zheng will be bumped up from No. 2 to 1 and Sharyse Watanabe and Suma Gudapati will fill in the second spot. The third is still up for grabs.
“Technically, that’s where it depends on our doubles because I know we can hold our own in singles,” Moravec said of challenging the perennial power San Marino. “The reason San Marino has been so good all these years is because of their depth.”
At Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, the Tologs are entering a season fresh off a playoff appearance after taking third in the Mission League. They took part in a postseason match for the first time since 2002 under coach Ron Zambrano.
Zambrano would like to see Sacred Heart avoid another 10-year playoff drought and a strong nucleus of returning talent might have the Tologs in line for a return trip to the postseason.
“We come into the season excited,” Zambrano said. “We have a lot of experience for the first time in a while, so we should be OK.
“It will be interesting to see how we do. Our players have been hitting the ball better of late at practice.”
The Tologs will bring back senior doubles player Julia Byrne, along with sophomore singles/doubles athlete Holly MacVaugh, sophomore singles player Camille Katz and sophomore singles/doubles athlete Briana Ryan.
Flintridge Prep finished in fourth place in the Prep League last season and missed the postseason. The Rebels chose to move in a new direction and brought in a new coach in Hratchia Sargsyan, who ran the school’s boys’ team last season.
While Sargsyan continues to get a better makeup of the team, he will have singles players Roya Ghessari (senior) and Suzie Kim (freshman) slotted in the lineup.
“I think Roya and Suzie can make some noise throughout the season,” Sargsyan said.