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Teams under construction

From graduating seniors to young programs, league is looking to build

Posted: March 23, 2009 1:33 a.m.
Updated: March 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch's No. 1 singles player Jordan Hovis will look to end his high school career on top after four years on varsity, helping build the program.

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In many ways, it might be a building year for Foothill League boys tennis.

Some teams are trying to fill holes left by graduating seniors, while others are busy laying a foundation for the future of their program.

For Valencia, one of the league's early frontrunners, there were large shoes to fill.

Gone from last season are Jack Zapala, Jimmy Kim, Michael Stewart, Cameron Phillips, Conner Comp and Matt Kuratomi, four of whom played doubles.

Back to build on 2008's team Foothill League title is a corps of juniors poised to continue Valencia's dominance.

Enter Tyler Gottshall, who reached the round of the 16 in last season's CIF-Southern Section tournament in doubles with Zapala, Ben Inchalik and Ronnie Kimelman.

"They are very motivated," said Vikings head coach Annie Kellogg. "Tyler and Ronnie and Ben are really wanting to make a playoff run. They are talking about that already. They've got their sights aimed high already."

Currently ranked No. 5 in the CIF-SS Division II poll, Kellogg says it is the doubles side that leaves the most questions.

But Kimelman, junior Anders Jansson, sophomore John Schmidt and freshman J.R. Macalutas have things going in the right direction.

The pairing of Kimelman and Macalutas made it to the finals of the Valencia Spring Smash on Saturday before falling to Granada Hills.

However, the young Macalutas could face a unique challenge in league play when Valencia hosts West Ranch on Thursday.

On the opposite side of the net will likely be brother Julius Macalutas, who returns for the Wildcats along with seniors Jordan Hovis, Beau Martin, Jeremy Ramirez and Patrick Fuertes to make another push at Valencia.

West Ranch coach Eric Spiecker admits that this year's group of seniors has a special place with him, having been a foundation for the Wildcats' program for years to come.

"Jordan loves tennis," Spiecker said. "I've seen him grow from an individual player to a team player. I really hope that is something that will continue in our program. ... Beau's a great role model for everyone. Beau and Jeremy, both those guys. They are just super hard workers. I'd say that the player who has improved most as a player is Jeremy. I'd like to see him lead that doubles team into an all-league status."

The early meeting between Valencia and West Ranch could give an early glimpse as to who will take the Foothill League title since many of the coaches believe it is likely up to those two teams.

It is a thought that might not sit well with Canyon and returning singles league champion Jason Ferliano, who will resume his post as the team's No. 1 singles player.

"I think we have a chance," said Cowboys head coach Kent Ganevsky, in his first season with the team. "Valencia of course has been strong the last several years, and West Ranch has come on strong the last couple years. I think Canyon might be able to sneak in there and surprise some people this year."

Aided by assistant boys tennis coach and head girls tennis coach Debbie Glasnow, Ganevsky, who spent several years at Golden Valley, inherits a program with growing young talent in a community he believes is on the verge of seeing a tennis boom.

"I truly feel that this is one of the top two or three valleys in the country," Ganevsky said of the overall athletic climate of the Santa Clarita Valley, pointing to other sports with successful programs. "Three to five years and we will also have dominant (tennis) talent in this valley."

A big reason, he believes, is the increasing number of tennis courts throughout the community, including the new facility at the College of the Canyons.

With Matt Kincaid, the doubles teams of David Lee and Jun Song and Kevin Snovicky and Alex DeGuzman, and a combination of Harry Lee, Derek Rosengrant, Cory Yamnoka, James Nguyen, Colby Greening and Tyler Gulley, Ganevsky sees this season with potential success and foundation for the future.

In contrast, Saugus brings a much older team to league play.

The Centurions will have their top three singles players from last season, as seniors Jordan Ta, Marc Liff and David Badal return to the court.

"I think all three of them bring a lot of motivation to the team," said Saugus head coach Allan Hardbarger. "We have a very senior-heavy team this year, and we finished in fourth place the last two years. We are really looking forward to breaking through this year."

Reinforced by the doubles teams of Austin Jones and Kevin Okimoto, Henry Ngo and Chris Poursayadi, and Tim Chin and Jeff Novoa, Hardbarger believes they are ready to take their play to the next level.

"We are going to come in with a pretty balanced attack," Hardbarger said. "We've got our No. 1s, 2s and 3s that are very close. I think that at any time, they are capable of surprising you."

Gone from last year are Lukas Colman, Pedro Moura and Jordan Franklin.

Another team looking to break through this season after a sub-par 2008 is Hart.

Senior No. 1 singles player Garrett Russikoff is already off to a hot start on the season and has Ben Williams and Joe Reyes to back him up.

Finishing in fifth last season, Indians head coach Chris Mansfield is ready for improvement.

"They were not happy last year," Mansfield said. "They are much more focused than they were last year."

The doubles teams of Paul Orszag and Alex Prieto, Austin Morgan and Kevin Tanner, and Kevin Tran and Miky Tayoba will do their part to turn things around.

Morgan, Tanner, Tran and Tayoba are all new to varsity this season, along with Greg Kurzhals.

The influx of young players provides a talent infusion into the program that will look to steal the show from Valencia's relatively untested doubles teams.

"I think the only way you can go after them is to have your doubles play extremely well and have your singles get some sets off their big guns," Mansfield said.

Golden Valley is also looking to young talent to determine the future of its program.

"We are a team that is waiting for definition," said Grizzlies head coach Holly Ingersoll. "We are a very young team."

Senior John Choi is back to lead Golden Valley as the individual Ingersoll deemed the player to watch and whom the underclassmen will look to for guidance.

But overall it is up to the players themselves to determine who will step up for the program.

"They've all improved so much," Ingersoll said. "It will be the one who decides to play like he practices. I couldn't really tell you which one has decided to do that yet."

League action begins Tuesday with Canyon at Hart at 3:15 p.m., West Ranch at Saugus at 3 p.m., and Golden Valley at Valencia at 3 p.m.


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