If spring symbolizes a time for new life and fresh starts, then Foothill League boys tennis might be the perfect metaphor.
Three-time defending league champion West Ranch is experimenting with different lineups, attempting some spring cleaning to polish the ideal pairings and singles players.
Hart and Canyon lost experience to graduation and are counting on young talent to perform, while Golden Valley is looking to sharpen the skills of returners.
Saugus also has some fresh faces in addition to veterans, and Valencia returns as a wiser team.
Here’s a look at how the league is shaping up:
The core of Noah Morrow, Parker McBride, Quincy Walter-Eze, Davey Woodland and Jake Anderson returns, but who each is paired with – if they’re paired with anyone at all – changes often.
“We have no consistent lineup,” said West Ranch coach Eric Spiecker. “Things are going to change this week because a couple kids are coming back into the lineup, and so we’re just really changing the lineup every match.”
For example, Aristo Turalakey played alongside Charlie Spina last year and went 24-2 in league. Spina is spending a year in Dubai, leaving his former partner playing with multiple players.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, who went undefeated in league last season and reached the program’s first CIF semifinal, they have plenty of chemistry to go around.
“They all have been competing against each other for years, and they’re all capable and skilled players. I’m lucky to have on the team,” Spiecker said.
The Vikings have a one-two punch in doubles. First, there’s Evan Balmain and Chan Gi Kim who bring a high tennis IQ to the court.
Then, there’s Jackson Boxall and Stephen Phay.
“They’re both probably 6-foot-2, 6-3,” said coach Jen Azevedo. “They’ve got great wingspan, they’ve got great power. Two big first serves coming at you.”
Sophomore Ian Cho will lead singles and also brings some tennis smarts to the team.
“We had such a young team last year that you get that little bit of wisdom,” Azevedo said.
“The coolest thing with our team is everybody is family oriented. Everybody gets the concept of team even though it’s an individual sport.”
Saugus, off to a 7-0 start, returns its No. 1 doubles team in team captain Gerard Elepano and Jigar Hira, who finished preleague 19-2.
“They are both skilled players that love playing doubles together,” Jeffris said. “Their mission this season is to improve with every match and be the best team they can be.”
Brighton Wan and Josh Chan, the team’s No. 2 pairing, finished 18-3 in preleague, and Ryan Buenaventura and Sean O’Connell moved up from JV as the No. 3 pair.
Junior Erin Pang, the Centurions No. 1 singles player, could prove to be a catalyst in this year’s success in singles. He finished 19-2 in preleague and was called the team’s “most skilled player” by Jeffris.
Competing in the No. 2 singles spot is Jeffrey Astorga, who is in his first year on varsity. At No. 3 is James Phan, the team’s only four-year varsity player, in his first year as a singles player.
All three of the Indians’ singles players from last season have graduated, leaving a group of underclassmen to take the reins.
Zach Killian, the freshman brother of previous Hart tennis standout Jeremy Killian, along with sophomores Spencer Kline and Tanner Spendlove have all been contributing to the team.
“I think that we definitely have a feisty group,” said coach Allan Hardbarger. “We’re willing to scrap and run for every ball, and with experience, I think we’re going to have a pretty good season this year.”
As for doubles, Hardbarger said that senior captains Andrew Erwin and Chad Thompson have been “a very steady doubles team all year.”
“The goal of every season is to win league and now we know there’s a lot of talent in other schools so we’re just going to go into every match and look to win,” said the coach.
Sophomore Dylan Yu leads the singles lineup, followed by seniors Jacob Anderson and Matthew Chang.
Experience leads off the doubles pairings with seniors Josh Twahirwa and Nick Rodriguez at the forefront.
Tyler Williams and Christian Okutsu are in the No. 2 spot and sophomores Javier Gonzalez and Chris Guerra are at No. 3.
“Our goal on the tennis team at GV is, as always, to improve our strokes and to compete with focus in every set,” said GV coach Josh Stimac via email.
The Cowboys may be the most inexperienced team in the league, but that also means they may have the most potential.
Each player on the roster played on the JV squad last year.
“I have seen this group of young men make great improvements from the first day of practice,” said coach Richard Bristow. “They are hard workers and very coachable.”
Jeremy Cook, Jesse Lara and Marco Preciado comprise the singles lineup, in that order. Kevin Lenora and Juan Sanchez; Kenneth Lenora and Aidan Kutcher; and Michael Harrison and Cody Malacki will compete in doubles.