The Flintridge Prep and Maranatha High School varsity boys’ tennis team both overcame great adversity en route to the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship, but it was the No. 3-seeded Rebels who proved to be more battle-tested as they defeated the top-seeded Minutemen, 10-8, at the Claremont Club last Friday.
Head coach Roger Hollomand guided Prep to its first CIF-SS boys’ tennis title.
“It’s kind of unreal at this moment given our young talent,” he said. “I didn’t really expect to get here, much less win it, but the stars were aligned and everything worked out in our favor.”
Hollomand credited his Prep League opponents, Polytechnic and Palos Verdes Chadwick, for preparing his team against a talented Maranatha squad. The Rebels faced the Minutemen earlier in the season and suffered a defeat because the coach rested a few of his starters.
“We have two Division 2 teams in our league, so you’re kind of battle-tested in that regard,” Hollomand said. “I feel like we had the experience to do well if we made it. I’m just glad we were able to get third [in the Prep League] and get to this spot.
“This was a great challenge for us, playing Maranatha, revisiting them again. How often do you get to play the team that you played earlier in the season in the final of the CIF tournament?”
Both teams were even, 3-3, after the first round of matches, but it wasn’t what Maranatha head coach Arthur Hsieh hoped for. His No. 3 doubles of Kenny Cho and Timothy Huang were ahead 4-3 over Neel Sadda and Leon Liao, but the Rebels stormed back to win the set, 6-4.
“It really turned in the first round,” said Hsieh, who guided the Maranatha boys to a runner-up plaque in 2017. “I really felt we should have been up 4-2. Our No. 3 doubles had a 4-3 lead and know they could have and should have won. That was our strategy, to get a 4-2 lead coming in.”
The match slowly slipped away from Maranatha’s hands in the second round of matches as Hollomand’s group managed to win four of six to build a 7-5 advantage.
“We had another hiccup when our No. 2 doubles played their No. 1,” Hsieh said.
“We had a 3-2 lead and played not to lose. We didn’t put away balls and gave them third and fourth chances. It came back to bite us. Had we won that, it’d be 6-6. It comes down to a very small margin.”
It didn’t get any better for Hsieh’s squad in the third round as one of the singles players had to retire his match because of cramps.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more from them,” Hsieh said. “They played their hearts out. I know a few of them would want to have it back. The hiccups we had aren’t the tennis that got us here. They would want that back. It’s a great lesson to learn. You don’t always get a second chance at something, and you have to seize it when you can.”
Andrew Megerdichian certainly seized his moment to clinch the win for Prep by defeating Nico Engling, 6-1. The Rebel swept his opponents, as well as Gillis Linde. No. 1 doubles Will Lanstra and Loran Baxter picked up two big wins for Flintridge Prep.
“I am just shocked and overjoyed,” Megerdichian said. “It wasn’t just me. It was all of us. The friendships we created and the camaraderie we have just makes us a perfect team.”
No. 1 doubles Matthew Leiva and Michael Mathews led Maranatha with three set victories, and duo Billy Tan and Jake Scott contributed two wins.
Hsieh guided his squad to a second championship match in the past three years despite a rough campaign.
“We started the season being told we didn’t have a league anymore,” Hsieh said. “In the middle of the season, we found out that we’re supposed to schedule 20 matches in order to qualify for CIF. We had to scramble and miss our entire spring break and cancel plans because had to schedule more matches in the final three weeks just to qualify. Thing after thing, there’s a lot we had to overcome. Win or lose, we’re going to thank God for the season.”