Playing at Paseo a highlight of Foothill League boys tennis prelims, finals

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The Foothill League prelims are one of the biggest highlights of the boys tennis season. It’s somewhat of a reunion for all the tennis players from around the league that reveals who among them is the best of the best. And it’s held at a classy facility, too: The Paseo Club.

“I love playing at Paseo,” said Hart’s Luke Papayoanou. “I like the courts and I like having all the people watching and it’s fun.”

Today, Papayoanou is playing on what some consider one of the most coveted courts at Paseo Club. In a singles semifinal matchup against West Ranch’s Charlie Spina, Papayoanou will play on the stadium court. Without a chain link fence surrounding it, it’s the most visible court at Paseo Club and is the first sight seen walking out of the clubhouse.

There’s plenty of room for spectators to watch matches at the location, which, depending on who you ask, is a benefit or disadvantage.

“My first match, I played on the stadium and there was a ton of people watching,” Papayoanou said. “I was pretty nervous, but it’s fun playing.”

Dylan Yu, who will be representing Golden Valley in the other singles semifinal match against Ian Cho, will play on the stadium court for the first time in his career today. He’s not too nervous, though.

“Just throw me wherever they can,” Yu said. “I’ve never played on the stadium court, but I’m playing tomorrow on there, so we’ll see how that is. I don’t care, anywhere, I like playing where my parents can watch me.”

In addition to the possibility of an audience, the stadium court also has a lot more room. It gives players the advantage of going for deeper shots and approaching their shots from different angles.

Playing at not just the stadium court but at Paseo Club, in general, is an exciting event for Hart, which hasn’t had a true home court all season due to renovations happening at Hart High School.

The Indians have practiced at Placerita Junior High, College of the Canyons and several public courts around Santa Clarita throughout the season.

“It’s been fun. Honestly, I’ll play wherever,” said Hart doubles player Tanner Spendlove. “It doesn’t matter where I play, just as long as I’m playing. We’ve had a lot of fun, so it doesn’t really matter whether we have courts or not, just because we had fun playing together as a team.”

The Indians are expecting to have new courts by the time the girls tennis season begins in August. It’s a relief to coach Allan Hardbarger, who has had to tote around gear for practices in his car this season.

“My wife told me that she’s just as excited as the players about getting new courts because my car is starting to smell like feet,” he said. “Hopefully, I can use my car for transporting normal things.”

The plan for Hart’s new facility includes six courts instead of the four that the program previously had. It’ll be a benefit for the Indians’ summer camps, which draw over 80 kids by Hardbarger’s estimate.

It’ll also speed up matches a good deal. Out-of-town teams shy away from playing at Hart’s facilities, making preleague scheduling difficult. In the league season, matches can take a while, particularly if it’s against a competitive opponent.

“It was terrible,” Yu said. “I was there for like an hour longer than I should’ve been, waiting for these guys to finish up their sets, but what are you going to do?”

Papayoanou sees the lack of a true home court this season as an advantage, especially when it comes to playing on the big stage at Paseo Club.

“I think it kind of gave us a chip on our shoulder because we never had a place and we’ve been playing really well this season,” he said.

Foothill League finals will be held today at 11 a.m. at Paseo Club.

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