Spartans Holding Their Own in Open Division

Photo by Mitch Lehman / Outlook Valley Sun
Coach Will Moravec credited the spirited play of Maya Urata, above, for the Spartans’ CIF Open Division first-round win over Mira Costa High of Manhattan Beach.

Anyone who thought the La Cañada High School’s girls’ tennis team would be derailed after losing a tough Rio Hondo League title match to San Marino better think again. 

Not only have the Spartans survived, they have since thrived, to the point of defeating perennial powerhouse Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach in the first round of the CIF playoffs. 

And it’s not just any playoffs. The Spartans were placed in the highly competitive Open Division, which consists of the top eight teams in the Southern Section, regardless of school size or any other factors. The schools are essentially playing a round-robin tournament to determine the champion.  

Along with La Cañada and Mira Costa, this year’s Open Division includes such tennis powerhouses as Peninsula High of Palos Verdes, Corona del Mar High of Newport Beach, University High of Irvine, Palos Verdes High, Westlake High of Westlake Village, and Huntington Beach. 

One obvious and notable omission? San Marino. When CIF officials assembled to select the participants for the elite Open Division, they bypassed the team that had defeated La Cañada for the league title. 

No problem, according to Spartans’ head coach Will Moravec. 

“Obviously, we belong there,” said Moravec. “We were ranked fifth and Mira Costa was ranked fourth. I’m fine with it.”

Moravec surmised that the Spartans supplanted Irvine Woodbridge in the Open Division.

“I think maybe they should buy us dinner,” quipped Moravec. 

First, he might consider treating his own team, which pulled out all the stops in the win over Mira Costa. Tsehay Driscoll won her three singles sets by scores of 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to lead the charge. 

“Tsehay was at the top of her game,” Moravec said. “She dominated. What is so great about having a person like her is not just wining the set, but it’s all those games she gets. It also can break the confidence of the next opponent she has to play.”

Maren and Maya Urata won five of the remaining six singles sets to continue the onslaught. The Spartans’ doubles teams closed the deal as Elliana Hana and Allison Woo, Riley Thornbush and Artis Phillips, and Sydney Wong and Sophia Razavi closed things out. 

Moravec pointed out Maya Urata’s outstanding individual effort.

“She was down 3-5 and came back to win 7-6,” Moravec said. “That was huge. If you lose a couple of these games, you can lose the match. Everybody has to pitch in.”

The Spartans finished the regular season with a 2-1 record; there were no opponents outside the Rio Hondo League in the pandemic-shortened season. Aside from the narrow 10-8 loss to San Marino, the Spartans defeated Temple City 14-4 and South Pasadena 16-2. 

LCHS faced Peninsula in the playoffs on Wednesday afternoon; the result was unavailable at the Outlook Valley Sun’s deadline.