The Valencia boys tennis team welcomed San Marcos High School of Santa Barbara to its home courts on Thursday afternoon for a preleague contest, the fourth match in 10 days for the Vikings.
The start of the match was delayed as players and coaches used sponge rollers to try and soak up the puddles of water on the courts. After a one-hour holdup, the match was underway, with players on both teams seeming less mobile than usual due to the frigid temperature.
“When it gets cold, we get a little tight and it’s a little harder to keep the body warm, keep the body moving. Dealing with the rain and then the sleet and then is it going to dry,” Valencia head coach Jen Azevedo said. “It definitely plays on a player’s mind, but we knew we had a match today so we were going to do whatever we could to try to get it in, especially with a team driving from that far away. It’s obviously not the best of circumstances to be playing in, but you make it work.”
The Vikings got off to a slow start, falling 5-1 in the first round, which lead to a 14-4 defeat. The only opening-round win came from the No. 2 doubles team of junior Stephen Thay and senior Brent Lim, who won their set against Bryan Shott and Alex Stefanov 6-1.
Thay and Lim also won their third set 6-1 against San Marcos’ No. 3 doubles team of Ronin Suzuki and Sam Friedman.
Valencia’s No. 1 doubles team of seniors Ian Cho and Eduardo Cedeno won one of their three sets, also defeating the Royals’ No. 3 doubles team 6-1.
The Vikings’ No. 3 doubles team of Matthew Young and Jason Tumbokon lost all three of their sets.
Azevedo said the preleague provides an opportunity to mix and match doubles combinations to try and find the right pairings.
“Part of preseason is not only playing the best competition that we can get, but to also kind of mess around a little bit and see what fits where. Sometimes you find things that fit in spots you didn’t expect them to,” she said. “Obviously playing a team like San Marcos you know that they are going to be deep all the way down, so playing with the doubles a little bit and seeing where our strengths are going to lie is definitely a component of that.”
Valencia’s No. 1 singles player sophomore Gabriel Chavez was the only singles player to win a set, defeating San Marcos’ No. 3 singles player Alex Chow 6-3.
Chavez fell to San Marcos freshman Masato Perera 6-4 in the opening round, but gave the young phenom all he could handle. Perera is currently the No. 40 ranked player in the nation according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.
“He has so much poise on the court. For somebody that young, he definitely has the maturity level on the court as somebody a lot older,” Azevedo said of Chavez. “It’s a lot of fun to watch him compete.”
Valencia started two freshmen at the No. 2 and No. 3 singles spots in Aditya Patki and Aiden Reyes.
Patki was shut out in both of his matches before being subbed out for another freshman Andre Ezzat, who won two games in his set but fell 6-2. Reyes was able to win one game on the afternoon, against Perera.
Despite the end result, Azevedo said the experience of playing a storied program like San Marcos is great for her players, particularly the underclassmen who are just starting their varsity careers.
“It’s great to see for our underclassmen. We have three freshmen that are up on varsity right now, so for them to kind of get a taste of it,” she said. “We had three tough teams and we won three matches, then you have today being on the other side of that coin and what does that feel like. What does that mean for your practice tomorrow, what does that mean going into next week? I just think it’s such a great learning experience to have.”
To start the season, Valencia defeated Westlake 11-7, Granada Hills 10-8 and Buckley 12-6. In addition to San Marcos, the three aforementioned schools are known to have great tennis programs.
Beginning the season 3-1 against four respected teams is something Azevedo and her team are extremely proud of.
“For us, I figured the best teams we could play, we’re going to see how we are doing. I would much rather put us up against the greatest competition that we can get and kind of see where we are and gauge from there as we go into whatever league is going to have for the year,” Azevedo said. “I’d rather give us the strongest matches that we can have. And all the coaches tell me our team has such great sportsmanship. When you hear those things, that means something. I take more pride in that.”
Valencia’s next match will be against Notre Dame on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. The match will take place at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana.