By David O’CONNOR
In their most anticipated match this season, the Crescenta Valley Falcons boys’ varsity tennis team suffered its first Pacific League defeat, 11-7, at the hands of undefeated host Arcadia on Tuesday.
Coming off two non-league losses from their last three starts, the Falcons knew they had to play to their potential against the Apaches, who compiled a 9-0 season record and haven’t come close to being tested in their league fixtures.
Falcons Coach Sam Hyun said there had been a huge build-up prior to this stand off against Arcadia. With a lot riding on the result, Hyun was forced to break-up No. 2 doubles pair Jason Wang and Jae Woon Yoon and bring in usual No. 2 singles player Albert Chytchan to team with Wang.
“We talked about the big match today. They know we are undefeated and we know they are undefeated, so in the Pacific League this is probably deciding who is going to be number one in the league,” Hyun said. “I shuffled the doubles lineup a little bit, Albert and Jason paired up together and actually, during practice, they beat every possible partners.”
The Apaches’ consistent doubles pairs were the big difference in their team’s win, as they managed to prevail in six of the nine sets they contested against the Falcons.
CV’s leading doubles pair, Kevin Rowe and Charlie Kim, clawed their way back from a 5-2 deficit against Arcadia’s No. 1 pair and carved out a nail-biting 7-6 win. Rowe and Kim nullified the Apaches’ pressing power-game with a mix of varied pace and angles and outstanding retrieving, as well as cohesive teamwork that produced superior positional play.
Rowe felt that he and Kim were able to dig deep due to their mental strength and that their low-risk approach put pressure on their opponents, which forced them into producing errors at important stages.
“We just knew mentally that we could come back and we just kind of did it,” Rowe said. “We didn’t make as many unforced errors at all, we actually kept it so solid.”
Rowe and Kim couldn’t turn their opening win into much needed momentum, as they submitted to the Apaches’ No. 2 and No. 3 pairs, 6-2, 6-2, which proved to be crucial losses for the Falcons.
Hyun reserved special praise for Arcadia’s strong doubles team and admitted that it was a difficult match for his players and felt there were a couple of losses that proved to be costly, which prevented his team from getting a tie.
“It was a very tough match. They are solid in doubles. Still, we have to practice our doubles to crack their doubles lineup,” Hyun said. “The last match we lost we should have won that one, then Arin was supposed to win, then we get at least a tie, 9-9.”
Hyun acknowledged Rowe and Kim’s losses were a big influence on the defeat, mainly because they neglected to cut off opportunities at the net and they couldn’t take charge of the points.
“Kevin and Charlie have to play a smart way. That means instead of attacking the net guys they have to move the ball around a little bit and wait for the poaching chance,” Hyun said. “They are pushing their luck; it’s like gambling.”
Albert Meserkhani, the Falcons’ leading singles player who had only dropped one match in seven rounds of competition, blew a 4-2 lead against the Apaches’ No. 1 player and lost 6-4 in a key-match that had a small bearing on the end result. Meserkhani bounced back and regained some pride by winning his other matches, 6-1 and 6-3.
Hyun attributed Meserkhani’s loss to his inability to adapt to a slow, moon-ball style of play and proved that he needs to work on this aspect of his game to overcome this situation in the future.
Chytchan and Wang lived up to Coach Hyun’s expectation by producing 6-3, 6-3 victories, but fell short in a 7-6 defeat against Arcadia’s No. 1 team. CV’s No. 2 pair trailed 2-0 when they first took the court, but they complemented each other by reeling off five consecutive games due to nice placement from Chytchan and lethal winners from Wang.
The Falcons’ No. 3 singles player, Eric Kim played his heart out in a battle of attrition – losing 7-6 in a quality display that included countless long rallies and few sloppy mistakes from either player. Kim managed to walk off the court a victor in his last match, winning 6-2, but he couldn’t knock off the Apaches’ No. 1 player in a 6-1 loss.
CV’s No. 2 singles player, Jonathan Frink looked promising after beating his counterpart 6-4 first up, but his game fell apart and he only won one more game in his next two matches, losing 6-1 and 6-0.
The Falcons’ No. 3 doubles pair, Alex Jang and Danny Chung lost all three matches, 6-1, 6-2 and 6-3.
CV moved to 5-1 in league play and 6-3 overall and travel to Burbank to face-off against Burroughs today at 3:30 p.m.