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2014 Foothill League Boys Tennis Preview: Tough to stray from history

Posted: March 17, 2014 9:24 p.m.
Updated: March 17, 2014 9:24 p.m.

Valencia junior Chad LeDuff is The Signal's reigning All-Santa Clarita Valley Singles Player of the Year.

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With 71 straight Foothill League wins and eight straight Foothill League titles, it would be hard to pick against the Valencia boys tennis team when predicting this year’s champion.

Last year’s All-Santa Clarita Valley Boys Tennis Singles Player of the Year Chad LeDuff is back for his junior year and ready to defend his crown.

But there are a few others who are hoping to knock LeDuff out and help their team topple Valencia in the league this year.

Here’s a look at each team in order of their finishing position in last year’s standings.

Valencia

With LeDuff and senior Joey Fernicola, who combined to go 49-1 against Foothill League opponents last year, the Vikings have arguably the best one-two punch in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Chad is taking his game up another level,” said Vikings head coach Annie Kellogg. “And Joey is playing so smart right now. He’s matured as a player. He may not hit the big bombs like Chad but he’s so smart.”

Add in Sam Rebele, who was half of last year’s All-Santa Clarita Valley Boys Doubles Team of the Year and Valencia’s lineup is scary.

But the rest of the doubles lineup is a question mark.

Valencia lost five of their six doubles players this offseason, so players like Nick Joyce, Ravi Jayanthi and Nabor Cabanillas will be counted on to keep their perfect streak going.

“I don’t think my team has been this dismantled in nine years,” Kellogg said. “The guys know the legacy and they all want to keep that streak going. No one wants that first loss to happen on their watch.”

Hart

The Indians have their top singles player Elliot Miller, who reached the semifinals of the 2013 Foothill League boys tennis final, back this year.

“Elliot will have a good shot at being one of the top singles players again this year,” said Hart head coach Chris Mansfield. “Valencia is going to be very tough but I think we’ll be competitive.”

Along with Miller, the Indians are returning one of last year’s anchors in doubles Luke Distad.

Distad’s partner from last year, Tommy LaBat, is the Indians’ biggest graduation loss. But Mansfield feels that newcomers like freshmen Lennard Javier and Bruce Shepherd will keep his team rolling in doubles.

“Bruce has been very consistent so far this year,” he said. “Andrew Ketterling is another (doubles) guy who is coming on well for us.”

West Ranch

The Wildcats may be the biggest wild card this season due to the return of their top player, Harrison Collins.

After taking online courses for the last two years, Collins returns to take the top spot of West Ranch’s singles lineup and hopes to contend with LeDuff.

West Ranch is the only team in league ranked in the latest CIF-Southern Section Division II poll, which puts the Wildcats at seventh.

“Everyone has had a great preseason,” said Wildcats head coach Eric Spiecker. “Collins beat a nationally ranked junior and our doubles team has only lost one set so far.”

Brandon Oh and Jonathan Lee are back for West Ranch along with new additions like freshmen Quincy Walter-Eze and Noah Morrow.

“I think we’ll compete well,” Spiecker said. “We’re playing well enough to challenge any team in the league.”

Golden Valley

The Grizzlies return their No. 1 singles player in junior Brandon Yu. He helped lead the team to their first-ever CIF postseason appearance last season.

But more impressively, Golden Valley is returning their entire doubles lineup from last year.

“It’s nice because the chemistry is already there,” said Golden Valley head coach Josh Stimack. “I don’t have to worry about putting who with who. We’re quite balanced.”

Freshman Nathan Ho will be taking the No. 3 spot in the singles rotation for the Grizzlies.

Saugus

There are a lot of new faces this year for the Centurions, who look to be facing a rebuilding season under first-year head coach Ken Jeffris.

Jack Archibald will take the No. 1 singles spot after senior Tristan Thierry left the program. He is the only returning starter for Saugus this year.

“We suffered major losses, including our head coach (Allan Hardbarger),” said Jeffris, who also took over as the girls varsity tennis coach this past fall. “So we’re starting from ground zero. But we’re a very young team so in a couple of years we’ll be competitive again.”

Canyon

After going winless in league last year, the Cowboys are hoping to bounce back with a stronger 2014 season.

Canyon’s No. 1 singles spot will be taken by newcomer Mina Grace, who transferred from Fountain Valley.

Returners Jason Sandoval and Anthony Williamson will take the second and third spots, respectively.

“The team is willing to work hard is very motivated,” said first-year Canyon head coach Dennis Yong, who also coached the girls varsity team in the fall. “We’re a growing team and a younger team, but I see us improving from last year.”

The Cowboys’ biggest loss is that of junior Philip Elterman, who left the team to focus on his United State Tennis Association work.

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