By David O’ CONNOR
A slightly weakened and a near second string CVHS boys’ varsity tennis lineup easily swept aside the South Pasadena Tigers 16-2 at home on Tuesday in a non-league matchup and extended the undefeated Falcons’ winning streak to five matches in a row.
The Falcons’ No. 3 singles player, Jonathon Frink, played as the top seed against the Tigers and showed his experience and class with 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 wins. The super sub, Eric Kim, prevailed 7-6 in his opening match, which enabled him to take some confidence into his polished 6-2, 6-2 wins. Half of the Falcons’ standout doubles pair, Kevin Rowe, had to keep the ball away from the doubles’ alleys in his unfamiliar role as the No. 3 singles player. He closed out a perfect performance from the singles team with compact 6-4, 6-2 wins.
Coach Sam Hyun changed the lineup because it was a non-conference match and he also wanted to give a few players the opportunity to pick up some points that will count towards the individual Pacific League tournament at the end of season, which involves the best 16 singles players and doubles pairs slugging it out for cherished spots in the regionals, sectionals and state playoffs.
Usually the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, seniors Arin Meserkhani and Albert Chtchyan combined as the No. 1 doubles pair against South Pasadena and only dropped two games in an intimidating display, which yielded comprehensive 6-1, 6-1 and 6-0 wins. Jae Woon Yoong and Jason Wang, who have only lost one set in five rounds, continued their strong teamwork with clinical 6-2, 6-3 wins.
An injury-plagued Falcons team overcame Hoover High School 13-5 last Thursday at home, with No. 1 singles player Meserkhani succumbing to a right bicep injury that forced him to pull out of two matches, which created an opportunity for Eric Kim to shine and perform when his team needed him the most.
Meserkhani has proven to be a vital part of the Falcons’ superb start to the season by only dropping one set in four rounds of competition, which meant that Kim had big shoes to fill. He absorbed the pressure by churning out a tough first set, 7-5, and ran away with a 6-0 flawless win in the second set.
“Eric has always been a reliable sub, he’s a solid player and at any time when we’re injured he always comes through. On Eric’s part he did very well,” said Meserkhani. “Eric is not a pusher, he’s an aggressive player and has good footwork.”
It was the Falcons’ doubles pairs who had a huge bearing on the result, with the Tornadoes being allowed to win only 12 games in nine sets due to such a dominating and an impressive level of play from the home team.
No. 1 pair Charlie Kim/Rowe continued their dominance in the Pacific League and remained unbeaten with 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 wins. No. 2 team Chang/Woong Yoon easily prevailed 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 and No. 3 pair Alex Jang/Danny Chung blitzed their opponents 6-0, 6-0.
Rowe feels that his strong connection with Kim off the court allows them to flourish as a doubles pair.
“Charlie and I are playing well because we really connect as a team and we really get each other and know each other’s strategy,” Rowe said. “We don’t break at certain points, we kind of keep each other in check and we talk each other into playing better. If we didn’t [connect] off the court as much, I don’t think we’d play as well together.”
Falcons’ head coach Sam Hyun lauded the successful partnership of Kim and Rowe, but he has his eyes on their key match against League rivals Arcadia on March 31 and feels that Meserkhani will be heavily relied upon, but he needs to address his fitness before this eagerly anticipated clash.
“Kevin and Charlie had a no-nonsense mentality which makes them play very safe with a complementing strategy and helps them to cover their partners’ weakness,” said Hyun. “Arin is our best singles player and he has a lot of big match experience and sound technique, but he needs to focus on his physical conditioning before tough matches ahead against Arcadia.”
Chtychyan also suffered a right arm injury during his 6-4 loss and was unable to take part in his other two singles matches. The injuries sustained by Meserkhani and Chtychyan made things complicated for the singles team, but Meserkhani is grateful for their reliable doubles team and pointed out that they saved the day.
“The doubles helps a lot, they have a very strong lineup,” Meserkhani said. “If we don’t come through in singles they always have our backs and they manage to score either six or seven points each game we play.”