The 37-year wait ended this past Thursday shortly after 5:30 p.m., the celebration of the moment rather underwhelming, especially when compared to the magnitude of the accomplishment.
For it was then that the La Cañada High School boys’ varsity tennis team defeated Temple City, 11-7, to secure the school’s first Rio Hondo League championship in that sport since 1984. That was the year when Ronald Reagan was president, Americans were mildly obsessed with a board game called Trivial Pursuit, Apple released something known as a personal computer and the world was grooving to music by a young Madonna.
Some members of that 1984 Spartan team have possibly purchased a starter racquet for one of their grandchildren, but now they have something in common with a group of young men other than simply where they attended high school.
“We were expected to win it all last year so this is sort of a delayed response,” said Spartan coach Will Moravec. “Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 30 or 40 years.”
La Cañada set the table for the title win last month when they edged San Marino,10-8. It marked just the second time in Moravec’s 31-year tenure that the Spartans have topped the Titans; the other win took place in 2010. Due to the pandemic-abbreviated season, the Spartans and Titans faced each other only once this season; teams usually play each other two times. They will not meet again unless they are paired in the CIF playoffs.
LCHS has a 3-0 league record, which also includes wins over Temple City and South Pasadena. (Blair and Monrovia do not have teams during this COVID-shorted season.) The Spartans’ overall record is 4-0, having also defeated neighboring rival St. Francis in a non-league match.
But last Thursday, all that history seemed a million miles away as La Cañada’s three doubles teams — Dylan Lu and Derek Ahn, Konan Sahara and Ben Lee, and Jack Manion and Aditya Desai — swept the Rams 9-0 in sets.
That left the remainder to singles players Luke Kim, Aaron Magtoto and Luke Manion, who knew exactly what to do.
“We completely changed our doubles lineup for the match,” said Moravec. “I didn’t think it was going to go that well. I was looking for maybe seven points out of doubles so to get a sweep was tremendous.”
While acknowledging the contributions of the entire team, Moravec singled out Lu and Ahn for leading the charge on the doubles side of the ledger.
“Dylan and Derek really turned it on,” he said. “But overall, this was our best team in a while. We have some really solid singles players which allows us to do well in doubles. You have to be diversified in high school tennis due to the round-robin format. You win with the entire team.”
During their last league championship season in the spring of 1984, first-year Coach Tom Parker’s Spartans finished with a 15-0 league record (league rivals played each other three times) and were 22-1 overall. Their lone loss was a nail-biter in the CIF Division 3A semifinals to Hacienda Heights Los Altos, when the teams tied 14-14 in sets won. Los Altos was victorious by virtue of games won, 108-91. A different scoring system was used by CIF at the time.
The Spartans’ top players in 1984 were senior Sean Stewart, who won the Rio Hondo League singles title, and the tandem of senior John Kim and junior Rick Augustini, who won the league’s doubles championship.
The 2021 Spartans will return to the Rio Hondo League individual finals at Temple City’s Live Oak Park on Friday before starting their CIF playoff run on Tuesday, May 18.
“We are going to take this league title and move on to CIF,” Moravec said. “With our depth, maybe we can put some lineups together that can get us a few rounds into the playoffs.”