Canyon boys tennis takes down Channel Islands

Canyon High's Jessie Lara sets his sights on returning a serve from a Channel Islands High School player during a home game on Feb. 20, 2019. Erik Luna / The Signal

This season, Canyon’s Jessie Lara decided to take tennis more seriously. After two years on varsity, his third was going to be dedicated to hitting harder, serving stronger and winning.

His focus is paying off, as he won all his singles sets as the Cowboys as a team beat Channel Islands 12-6 at Canyon on Wednesday.

“I’m trying to focus not only on myself but I want to help my team,” Lara said. “So we can all win as a team. Other than that, for myself, I would say I’m working more on my serves because I don’t hit hard. I just want to do harder serves and also just hit hard in general.”

Lara, Canyon’s No. 1 singles player won his first set 6-3, then the following two 6-0. He played Marc Del Castillo in his final set of the day, diving for shots as Del Castillo used a stealthy slice to his advantage.

But Lara was quick, using the full court to his advantage and making quick runs to the ball.

“In general, I always know how fast to go or just, I just feel it in me,” Lara said. “It’s just like okay, I can run this because I’ve always ran my whole life, so I get used to just running fast and trying to go for the ball.”

The Cowboys’ No. 1 doubles pair of Aidan Kutcher and Christian Rojas were 2-1 on the afternoon, losing their only set in a tiebreaker. Kutcher, who has one of the team’s best serves, double-faulted at the end to fall 7-5 in the tiebreaker.

“It was really intense,” Kutcher said. “Just kept going back and forth, I had a lot of fun with it personally, it was a great set. They had (a kid with) really good volleys. It made us really run and we just had to place it far more carefully.”

Kutcher and Rojas, both seniors, have been doubles partners for the last four years, although they didn’t compete as a pair for Foothill League play last season. The duo works well together, with complementing skill sets.

And, of course, there’s some friendly competition, too.

“In comparison to other players, I’d say we have similar styles,” Rojas said. “We definitely have our strengths and weaknesses. He is better at serving. I used to be better at serving, but he got ahead of me. And I’m better at volleys than he is.”

Also in doubles play, Reese Johnson and Anton Katona won all three sets 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 for Canyon (1-0 overall). Max Shochet and Humberto Reyes-Reid won two sets 6-2 and 6-0 while dropping the third 2-6.

In singles, No. 2 Braden Bowers won 6-1, 6-3 and lost the third 4-6.

With rainy weather and temperatures hovering around the low 50s, conditions were less than favorable for tennis.

“I prefer 100-degree weather over this. It was ridiculous,” Rojas said. “My last match playing deuce, it was the longest deuce I’ve ever had in my life. And the cold definitely played a factor in that.”

Overall, coach Robert Bristow was pleased with what he saw from his team in its first preleague match of the season after one was rained out and another was canceled due to scheduling conflicts.

“I thought they did really well, especially towards the end of the match, I thought we improved as the match went on,” Bristow said. “So that was comforting. We started off good, but I saw us make a few minor adjustments throughout altogether and I thought the guys helped each other and encouraged each other and cheered them on.”

Canyon’s next match will be on the road at Sierra Canyon on Tuesday.

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