By Austin Green
After a nearly 18-month layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Glendale and Burbank high schools’ girls tennis teams recently opened the season at Glendale, taking to the courts for the first time. The host Nitros secured a 10-8 win in their first match under new head coach Jim Jenks, who took over from Tom Gossard after the 2019 season.
“It was great to get out and get the girls moving again. I think they needed it, I needed it and we’re all excited to be out here once again,” Jenks said.
Glendale welcomed a limited number of family members, all masked and distanced throughout the school’s six tennis courts, to cheer on players from both teams. Coaches mingled with parents — many of whom had never met the coaches in person, especially in Jenks’ case — and instructed players during between-match breaks. Players shared encouragement or consolation with their teammates.
“I think everybody’s excited to get out again and feel normal again. I think it’s great for everybody, win or lose, I think it’s great that they’re competing again. Especially for seniors,” Burbank head coach Loi Phan said.
Phan took every opportunity he could to pull his players aside and offer some personal coaching in an attempt to make up for the very limited amount of practice time his team had had over the past two weeks. Phan had to assemble his team on the fly and do a lot of it virtually, with girls sending in videos of themselves hitting balls and doing basic drills. When he did start running actual practices, Phan focused on conditioning, as did Jenks with his team. It seemed to pay off for both sides on Thursday.
“Getting back outside for their first match, looks pretty good,” Phan said. “Just from their movement right now I don’t see anyone keeling over. I know it’s not that hot but the whole point is they haven’t done anything for, jeez, a whole year?”
The relaxed, laid-back atmosphere belied a hard-fought team match that was closely contested throughout. The teams emerged from round one tied at three wins apiece, and Burbank took a 5-4 lead early in the second round. However, Glendale stormed back by sweeping the rest of round two to grab a 7-5 lead. That proved just enough — the teams again split round three and Glendale’s three victories were enough to clinch the team win.
The Nitros got great efforts from their top two doubles duos — Sarah Davtyan and Nahnor Ghazarian, and Momo Guzman and Lizzy Davtyan — who won five of their six matches. Guzman and Lizzie Davtyan swept their sets 6-3, 6-1 and 6-2 while Sarah Davtyan and Ghazarian won their final two matchups 6-2, 6-1 after losing their first matchup 2-6. Glendale’s No. 1 singles player, Celine Khachiki, also swept her sets 6-1, 6-1, 7-6.
“They’re resilient,” Jenks said. “They’re not giving up, they’re playing with a lot of heart, and they’re not being hard on themselves.”
Burbank more than held its own, as well. The Bulldogs’ No. 1 and No. 3 in singles, Elli Sumera and Cleo Wang, respectively, won two sets each. Sumera won hers 6-0, 6-1 while Wang won hers 6-0, 6-0. The only loss for each of them came to Khachiki, who Wang battled to a tiebreak before succumbing 7-6.