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Foothill League boys tennis preview: Vikings’ raid

Can anyone put a stop to Valencia’s quest for another Foothill League championship?

Posted: March 21, 2010 10:12 p.m.
Updated: March 22, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Valencia senior Tyler Gottshall will be among the top singles players in the Foothill League this year.

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Last season, Valencia boys tennis won its seventh Foothill League title in the last eight years.

With the abundance of quality players in the Santa Clarita Valley, there’s no question it will be a challenge to repeat.

The question seems to be, who will be ready to battle the Vikings?

Valencia returns nearly all of its starters, including its top talent, Loyola Marymount University-bound No. 1 singles Tyler Gottshall, from a team that made an undefeated run through league play last season.

The rest of the teams haven’t been as fortunate.

West Ranch lost nearly its entire starting lineup to graduation, including Jordan Hovis, last season’s league singles champion who now plays for Concordia University.

Golden Valley and Saugus saw graduations rob them of plenty of talent as well.

Hart returns a few familiar faces at the top spots, but the other spots will feature a relatively new cast.

But Canyon will definitely have a say in the league title race.

Canyon finished third last season, but head coach Kent Ganevsky has the luxury of welcoming back plenty of talent from last season’s playoff squad.

The Cowboys could prove to be the biggest obstacle in the Vikings’ way.

At the same time, Valencia (5-3) and head coach Annie Kellogg have already provided a good deal of answers.

Gottshall, Ben Inchalik and J.R. Macalutas, who were all key figures in the Vikings’ run last season, come back with another year of experience to lead the singles lineup.

Their No. 1 doubles team of Tayven Townsend and Dalton Ullman has been impressive in the preleague season, as has the team of seniors Daniel Bingham and Daniel Bogan.

“I have a good feeling they’ll be ready to take care of business when it’s time for league,” Kellogg said recently.

And regardless of departures, the league will be ready for Valencia.

After all, Canyon (5-1) returns all but two starters, including one of the league’s top singles talents in Jason Ferlianto.

Ferlianto is only a junior, but his resume in league play includes a singles title his freshman year.

Matt Kincaid follows him up at the No. 2 spot, a senior with plenty of varsity sets under his belt.

“(Kincaid) is a good player and has some really good strokes,” said Canyon head coach Kent Ganevsky. “We’re expecting some good things from him after last year.”

The No. 3 spot also features a senior with varsity experience in Kevin Snovicky.

Ganevsky said that the doubles team of Harry Lee and Corey Yamaoka has filled in nicely for graduation losses.

Ganevsky has also found consistency at the two and three spots, and depth will be critical to improving upon last year’s finish.

West Ranch (0-4) may have a completely different look and record than last year, but the Wildcats could still be dangerous.

Gone are Hovis, Beau Martin and Jeremy Ramirez, seniors who last year led West Ranch to within a few games of the league title.

But Baron Von Kessler and Ali El-Arabi have already bolstered the singles lineup this season and made the team competitive.

“We had chances at Campbell Hall and again at Granada Hills and even against Hoover, so, yeah, I guess you could say 0-4 is a bit deceiving,” said West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker. “But we have to go to school on those matches.”

Doubles players Evan Abbott and Kirill Lipa had never played together before this past weekend, but they could be the No. 1 team, as could the team of juniors Brandon Lee and Wayne Moses.

Julius Macalutas is one of the few starters coming back that will add valuable experience for West Ranch.

Saugus (4-5) has also been through a gauntlet of a preseason run.

The young group of Centurions has already taken on nine teams, including eight on the road, and still managed to pick up a handful of wins.

“We’re still going to make a push for the playoffs, and we’ve got a very, very young team, but I think if the guys play their best, anything can happen,” said head coach Allan Hardbarger.

The team lost all but one starter from last season, including its top-three singles starters.

But Hardbarger doesn’t want to hear the word “rebuilding.” The Centurions have already shown they’ve got a solid foundation to be competitive.

Spencer Parks moved up from junior varsity and has quickly developed into a point-winner at the No. 1 singles spot.

“He’s been playing some really good singles and he’s improved a lot,” Hardbarger said. “He has solid strokes and he’ll give a lot of people trouble this year.”

Saugus also has a solid counterpuncher in Chris MacDonald, a sophomore who’s been giving the team consistency at the No. 2 singles spot.

Additionally, the preseason tests have helped solidify the doubles lineup.

Chris Poursayadi, the team’s one returning doubles starter, plays with sophomore Hunter Montgomery as the top doubles team.

Golden Valley (3-4) has a bit more experience this year and a few wins so far, but its youth could catch up to it in the league.

“We have quite a few returners and it’s actually looking pretty good,” said Golden Valley head coach Holly Ingersoll. “(Our younger players) have the tools but they lack experience, which they’re gaining all the time.”

Despite having to pull up from junior varsity to fill the team’s nine spots, the Grizzlies have won three times.

Niki Shim, who moved into the No. 1 singles spot, was a big part of those wins thanks to a strong serve game.

Chris Kim and Myles Moore will fill out the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively, for Golden Valley.

Senior Justin Kong and junior Christian Navarro will anchor the doubles lineup, Ingersoll said.

“They have the experience and they have the drive and they have the skill returning on varsity,” she said.

Hart (1-6) also returns a few familiar faces, most notably a veteran coach with 30 years of experience in Chris Mansfield.

The Indians also have senior Joe Reyes, their singles leader from last year, returning at the No. 1 spot.

Reyes earns a lot of points with his determination, according to his coach.

“His strength is that he runs down every point, every ball,” Mansfield said. “And he’s pretty good at the net.”

David Afework has taken over the No. 2 singles spot, and the Indians have a pair of seniors to anchor their doubles lineup.

Mansfield said his No. 1 doubles team of Austin Morgan and Kevin Tanner has only lost two sets in seven preseason matches.

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