Saugus boys tennis beats Canyon for first league win

Lawrence Lam approaches a shot in a Foothill League match against Canyon on Thursday, April 9 at Saugus High School. Dan Lovi/The Signal

The Saugus boys tennis team notched its first league win of the season, defeating Canyon 12-6 on a windy Tuesday afternoon at Saugus High School.

The Centurions were led by singles players Andrew Belcher, Matthew Schwartz and Lawrence Lam, who won eight of their nine sets, including two tiebreakers.

“It’s good to have all three of them play extremely well. They kept it their style of tennis throughout the day,” said Saugus head coach Bailey Sindle. “Having Andrew back is big, he is our No. 1, but high school tennis is very much a team sport. One person can only do three, so it really required everyone to play their best. I think all my singles players did that today and doubles teams did a really good job with that too.”

Belcher battled his Canyon counterpart Jessie Lara to a tie-break set in the first round, winning 7-6 (7-2) despite losing the first game.

The freshman, who struggled out of the gate in league due to injuries, seems to be hitting his stride of late.

He lost just one game in his other two sets against Braden Bowers and Humberto Reyes-Reid, Canyon’s No. 2 and No. 3 singles players.

“It’s good to get that first one. Getting all the experience being the first season I’ve had, it feels good to get that first win,” Belcher said.

Lara was the only Canyon singles player to win a set, defeating Schwartz 6-4 in the second round.

He won all three of his sets against Saugus in the first matchup between the teams, but Cowboys head coach Richard Bristow wasn’t too concerned about Lara. He said his struggles today are a rarity, and fully expects his No. 1 singles player to come back with extra fire on Thursday against Hart.

“He’ll rebound, he’ll play well against Hart. He’s very self-motivated, he doesn’t need a lot of encouragement. He works hard, he’ll come back,” Bristow said. “He had an off day for sure, but he doesn’t have many off days. Some days just go like that.”

Lam, Saugus’ No. 3,  lost only three games on the afternoon, defeating Reyes-Reid 6-2 in the first set, then beating Bowers 6-0 and knocking off Lara 6-1 to close it out.

He looked extremely comfortable at the net, using his length to attack balls and kept his games short with his aggressive style of play.

“He was on fire today. We definitely have been working on him coming up to the net more since the beginning of the season. I was like, ‘You’re tall, you have a good wingspan, use that. Go up to the net, be aggressive and just end the points,’” Sindle said of Lam. “He has a good baseline game and he’s very consistent, but I wanted him to get in the habit of being able to come up, finish points and conserve his energy a little bit.”

Canyon was able to win five points on the doubles side, with the No. 1 doubles team of Aidan Kutcher and Reese Johnson winning all three of their sets.

The No. 2 doubles squad of Anton Katona and Max Shochet won two of their three sets, but lost their first set against Saugus’ No. 2 doubles team of Aidan Graham and Brandon Buenaventura in heartbreaking fashion.

It was a back and forth battle, with both teams exchanging blows throughout the set, ending in a 7-6 (13-11) tiebreaker win for Saugus.

“There were two tiebreakers in the first that really hurt us. I give credit to Saugus, they won the close matches and that’s sometimes the difference,” Bristow said. “We can’t change anything that’s already happened. We have to put it behind us and work hard tomorrow at practice, tomorrow is a new day. We can’t dwell on this one.”

Canyon will look for a win against Hart on Thursday, taking on the Indians at home.

The Centurions will look to build some momentum from Tuesday’s win as they take on Golden Valley on the road.

“I think we need to have a good practice tomorrow and realize that, yes we won today, but Thursday is going to be a whole new day. Anything can happen, conditions can be who knows what, so just staying consistent with a positive mindset,” Sindle said. “Keeping with their tennis, that’s kind of the big thing I stress throughout the season, play your game. If you’re going to win, win playing your style. If you’re going to lose, play your style.

“With Golden Valley, it’s going to be another tight match. Last time was 8-10, so I think Thursday is going to be very close and we’re away too.”

Both matches are scheduled for 3 p.m.

Valencia 13, Hart 5

The Vikings are one step closer to a Foothill League title with their road victory over the Indians on Tuesday.

Valencia got most of its points on the doubles side, winning eight of nine doubles sets. The No. 1 doubles team of Stephen Thay and Eduardo Cedeno dropped just two games on their way to three wins.

The No. 3 doubles team of Jason Tumbokon and Matthew Young won all three of their sets, albeit in close fashion, including a 7-5 win over Hart’s No. 2 doubles team of Scott Rankin and Justyn Friedler.

The only doubles win for Hart came from the No. 3 team of Sam Fossa and Spencer Kline, who defeated Valencia’s No. 2 team of Ellis Bosarge and Brent Lim 6-3.

Hart’s No. 1 Luke Papayoanou carried the load on the singles side, defeating Valencia’s No. 2 Ian Cho and No. 3 Andre Ezzat 6-1 in both sets.

Valencia No. 1 Gabriel Chavez won both sets he played by a score of 6-4, defeating Papayoanou and Hart’s No. 2 Jax Liescheidt.

Valencia will face West Ranch at home on Thursday and Hart will travel to Canyon for a 3 p.m. start.

West Ranch 17, Golden Valley 1

The Wildcats dropped just six games total in their nine singles sets on the way to an impressive 17-1 home victory over the Grizzlies on Tuesday.

West Ranch’s No. 1 singles player Charlie Spina lost just one game in his three wins and No. 2 Alec Robertson lost only two games in his three wins. Michael Ponto, the No. 3, won his three sets by scores of 6-0, 6-2 and 6-1.

West Ranch will face Valencia on the road in a highly-anticipated rematch which Valencia won 11-7 the first time around. Golden Valley will face Sierra Canyon on the road on Wednesday, before returning to league action against Saugus at home. Both Foothill League matches start at 3 p.m. on Thursday, while Golden Valley’s match against Sierra Canyon is slated for 2:30 p.m.

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About the author

Dan Lovi

Dan Lovi

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dan has covered sports from the high school level to the professional ranks. He is a graduate of Hofstra University in New York and The University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is a sports writer for The Signal.