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Posted: April 25, 2008 2:43 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 

The first time Canyon tennis coach Edgar Perfecto saw Jason Ferlianto play tennis, he knew he was seeing something special. Perfecto just didn't know how old this baby-faced kid was or if he'd be attending Canyon. He did know that Ferlianto, who was hitting with his dad on the Canyon tennis courts, had a lot of talent. When baby J, as he's called by his teammates, showed up at Canyon for tryouts, Perfecto was elated.

And so began Canyon's reincarnation from doormat to playoff team.

"I was so happy," said Perfecto, who's just a baby himself - a 20 year old in his first year at the helm. "We haven't had a lot of good freshmen come out."

Thursday afternoon, Ferlianto and Canyon (12-6, 6-4) defeated Hart 14-4 in the last regular season match to complete the turnaround and improve the squad to 6-4 in the Foothill League. The Cowboys, thanks to a plethora of returning players and the addition of Ferlianto who serves as the team's No. 1 player, are headed to the playoffs as the No. 3 team out of the league.

Only last season, Canyon could barely win a match, losing all but two league games to Golden Valley.

"The difference is we kept most of our players, and of course we got better," senior John Kincaid said. "We all know each other so we make good doubles teams."

On the sidelines the Cowboys are a bunch of jokesters, gabbing it with their coach and each other. On the court, they were unmerciful. In addition to Ferlianto, who swept his three matches 6-3, 6-0, 6-0, the doubles teams of Chris Guidroz and Mitchell Fields as well as Matt and John Kincaid also swept.

Ferlianto has been playing tennis since he was four years old. His teammates point out his consistency as his biggest asset but he says he still needs to work on being aggressive. He won't take the credit for the team's improvement either.

"I think it's a group effort," he said.

While the freshman shines, Perfecto who played at Canyon and graduated in 2006 isn't that far off from his freshman season. Most of the kids he now coaches were actually once his teammates.

"It's a double edged sword," he said. "Sometimes they don't listen and sometimes it's easier to talk to them."

The message has apparently gotten through. With practically the same team as the year before, Canyon is playoff bound. First though, are the preliminaries starting Wednesday, and the easy win at Hart just helped boost their confidence.

"We have the kids thinking winning mentality," Perfecto said.

As for the Indians (2-8, 2-14), a team that won the Foothill League three seasons ago and tied for first two years ago, the season has been a struggle.

With his No. 1 singles played Garret Russikoff recovering from a severe back injury and having to sit out the last of his three matches Thursday, Hart coach Chris Mansfield could only cheer his team on knowing that the end of the road had come for Hart as a team.

"This is really a down year," Mansfield said.

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