TORRANCE – The Hart boys tennis team was used to playing on the road this year. With renovations going on at its home courts, Hart played all of its home matches at College of the Canyons.
So when the Indians had to travel 40 miles south to face West Torrance in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Wednesday, they were prepared.
However, they ran into a deep and skilled team that was able to build an early lead in the first round, leading to a 12-6 result in the Warriors’ favor.
“I can’t take anything away from West, they were very deep and very solid. Maybe we didn’t play our absolute best today, but we came mentally ready to play,” Hart head coach Allan Hardbarger said. “We just got beat by a tough team. They got up on us early and it’s tough to come back against a team as talented as West.”
The Indians fell behind 4-2 after the opening round with one win coming from the Foothill League singles runner-up Luke Papayoanou (6-2) and a 6-2 win from the senior doubles team of Spencer Kline and Sam Fossa.
Kline, the team captain and a four-year varsity player, was disappointed with the loss but was able to take solace in the fact that the team improved drastically since he hit the courts as a freshman.
“I really appreciate my team this year. I started as a freshman and we weren’t even really considering CIF, so to be able to grow and get in it last year and this year is incredible,” Kline said. “When I was a freshman we were battling for third place and every match felt tough. This year it felt like the seniors helped get the ball rolling for future members of the team. I’m just really proud of the guys this year.”
The No. 1 doubles team of Jeremy Killian and Jack Burns battled the Warriors’ No. 1 doubles team in the opening round, evening the score at 5-5, but lost 7-5 in a tight set.
In the second round Hart earned two victories in singles, with Papayoanou winning 6-0 and Jax Liescheidt winning 6-4.
The two sophomores played consistent tennis throughout the afternoon, displaying a solid combination of power and speed. The pair carried the load on Wednesday, earning four of the team’s wins.
“Luke and I are going to get a lot stronger. We’re going to be missing the seniors, but I think we’re going to push to be stronger next season,” Liescheidt said. “We just got to keep playing throughout the offseason, play sets, play tournaments and push through.”
Trailing 8-4 heading into the final round, the Indians had a tough road ahead of them. Liescheidt was able to grab his second win of the day (6-1) and Killian and Burns snagged a 6-4 victory, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.
After the match, the players gathered together for one last huddle and reminisced on the great season they had. And everyone echoed the same sentiment: the future is bright for Hart tennis.
“We’ve had a blast so we’re sad that it’s ending, but it’s also been a long season, so it’ll be good to rest a little,” said senior Tanner Spendlove. “I think this team is going to have a great future. We have a solid core of players who are returning so they’re going to rock it.”
“We have a good foundation. We have some really talented JV players that are hungry to make varsity, we had a successful JV season,” Hardbarger said. “As long as they put in the work in the offseason we could be looking at something special next year.”