After losing five starters to graduation, there might be cause for alarm. Not so much for the La Cañada High boys’ tennis team.
While the Spartans won’t have the major core of their team back, they are hard at work looking for the next wave of talent ready and willing to carry the torch.
“Any time you lose five players, including Joshua Kim, it’s pretty tough,” said La Cañada Coach Will Moravec, whose team placed second in the Rio Hondo League behind CIF Southern Section Division II-champion San Marino. “We lost the top end of our lineup, but we have some good new players who are set to step in and see what they can do on the court.”
La Cañada, which advanced to the quarterfinals last season against second-seeded Palm Desert, will have a few returners in the fold. Among them are juniors Patrick Finnigan and Nick Malone, who will likely be the Spartans’ top doubles team.
La Cañada will also have back senior singles players Ryan Lee and Christopher Madsen. They will be joined by freshman singles player Lucas Chmielewski and junior doubles athlete Robert O’Brien, who transferred from St. Francis.
In addition to facing San Marino twice, La Cañada will have matchups against Valencia Valencia, Hart and Crescenta Valley to prepare in its goal to earn a return trip to the postseason.
“It’s pretty much a new team,” Moravec said. “If we can get our doubles teams going, maybe we can get the same results as last year.
“We think we can finish top three in league.”
Flintridge Prep, which placed third in the Prep League last season, will have a core of strong athletes returning.
Flintridge Prep second-year Coach Hratchia Sargsyan will look to weave returning senior William Dixon and juniors Reilly Dolleska and Alex Orloff into the lineup with some first-year athletes ripe with potential.
Dixon and Dolleska give Sargsyan options, as the duo can compete in singles and doubles. Orloff will be one of the Rebels’ top doubles athletes.
“We have some steady returning players and it will be interesting to see how the new players will compete,” said Sargsyan, whose team lost to Walnut in the postseason. “We will see where things ultimately stand, but it’s a goal of ours to get back to the playoffs.”
St. Francis took fourth in the arduous Mission League last season. Thought the Golden Knights missed out on the playoffs, they figure to return a strong core to put them in position to challenge for a playoff spot this season.
The Golden Knights will likely have a mix of experienced players to go along with some first-year athletes.
St. Francis will return senior singles player Kristian Estebe, senior doubles athlete Alex Kavakian and junior doubles player Greg Alei. They will be joined by sophomore singles player Mostafa El-Harazi and freshman singles athlete Jack Freer.
“We have some holes to fill, but I think we can get a top-three spot in league,” St. Francis Coach Ron Zambrano said. “We have some players who compete year-round.
“We are looking good. I think we will have a pretty good lineup.”