La Cañada High quartet qualifies to Rio Hondo League tennis semifinals

TEMPLE CITY — An afternoon of positive results gave way to two realizations for the La Cañada High girls’ tennis team at the Rio Hondo League preliminaries at Live Oak Park on Wednesday afternoon.

The first is that the Spartans will have at least one representative at Thursday’s league championships.

The second truth is that one player’s pleasure will come at the expense of another’s pain as the Spartans’ two singles qualifiers – Rio Hondo League top seed Allie McKenzie and No. 4 Sawa Keymeulan – will square off in the semifinals at noon, while the Spartans doubles team of Cassie McKenzie and Sharyse Watanabe will also attempt to advance out of the semifinals to Thursday’s final.

“This was all somewhat expected. We had some top seeds in this tournament and they won, which is what they should have done,” veteran Spartans Coach Will Moravec said. “Now we’ll see what happens Thursday. That should be interesting.”

Allie McKenzie earned a bye and then made quick work of eighth-seeded Audrey Liliquist of Monrovia, 8-0.

When asked her feelings about Thursday’s semifinal round, Allie McKenzie said her focus wouldn’t be on Keymeulan.

“I’m not playing the player, I’m playing the ball. I’m going to treat this like any other match,” Allie McKenzie said. “As long as we’re friends afterward, that’s important to me.”

Keymeulan was a two-time winner Wednesday in eliminating two players from league champion San Marino.

The Spartans junior first outlasted June Lee, 8-3, in the opening round before looking even more impressive in an 8-0 quarterfinal win over Cindy Chwa.

While dominant, Keymeulan and Allie McKenzie may have directly benefited by a move from San Marino Coach Melwin Pereira, who merged his top two singles players, Devon Jack and Madeleine Gandawidjaja, into his top doubles unit.

“It’s about moving onto CIF and about the league having its best players being represented,” Pereira said of his substitutions. “Everybody does it. It just that when San Marino does it, people say ‘Whoa’ for some reason.”

Jack and Gandawidjaja were seeded second in league and may very well face the No. 1 duo of Cassie McKenzie and Watanabe, which received a first-round bye and then punched their ticket to Thursday’s semifinals by defeating Monrovia’s Victoria Rose and Verity Tawel, 8-5.

“They may be a doubles team, but those are two singles players,” said Cassie McKenzie of San Marino’s squad. “I’m a singles player too, but I’m happy to be playing with Sharyse. We’ve been playing together for a while and I think we know each other well.”

Before the Spartans’ top pair can talk about a championship, they must first knock off San Marino’s Vivian Le and Monique Gandawidjaja in the semifinals.

La Cañada’s Emily Matuska ended her tournament run with a 1-1 record, defeating Monrovia’s Katia Guerrero, 8-2, before falling to Temple City’s Joy Huang, 8-0.

The Spartans doubles’ team of Emily Swanson and Serena Zhang also notched an 8-2 win over Temple City’s Kathy Tu and Megan Lee, which preceded a 8-2 loss to Jack and Madeleine Gandawidjaja.

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