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NOTEBOOK : Is There a Changing of the Guard Among Prep Tennis Teams?

March 26, 1992|SEAN WATERS

The 1992 season may signal a shift in power among Westside high school tennis programs, with University dominating the City Section and Palisades fighting to regain its past glory.

Even highly ranked Beverly Hills, a fixture in the Southern Section playoffs, already has lost a nonleague match to diminutive Brentwood.

Here's a look at perennial Westside tennis powers Brentwood, Beverly Hills, University and Palisades.

Nothing but aces--Brentwood High might not be a power in football, basketball and baseball, but when it comes tennis, the Eagles believe they can hold court against any high school--large or small.

"I think we not only have the best team in the area, but we have one of the best teams in Southern California," first-year Coach Roberto Donati said. "Tennis is our life. Everyone is willing to work together as a team even if it means sacrificing personal goals."

Brentwood, the top-ranked team in the Southern Section 1-A Division, finished with an 18-2 record last season under coach Jane Willens.

The Eagles feature senior left-hander David Manpearl, who often fools opponents with his spin serve. Junior Derek Traister may have the best ground strokes on the team, according to Donati, and senior Casey Myers forces a lot of errors with his backhand.

Juniors Jon Rogal and Kevin Pivnick are the top doubles team.

"Not everyone is as good as the top players on the team," Donati said. "But the top players are willing to make sacrifices for the others. Sometimes in practice while I'm working with a player, one of our top singles players will stop practicing and teach strategy to the doubles players.

"We're definitely going to have a winning season."

Change of seasons--Jason Newman will forever be known at Beverly Hills as a starter on the basketball team that won the Southern Section 3-A championship in 1969.

Newman's biggest accomplishment as a coach, however, has come on a different court. In addition to being an assistant basketball coach, Newman doubles as the tennis coach. In the past four years, he has guided the Normans to the Southern Section 5-A semifinals. Twice in that span, Beverly Hills has made the championship match--1988 and 1989. Each time the Normans have been knocked out of the playoffs by Santa Barbara.

Beverly Hills, which has won seven league titles under Newman, was ranked third in the 5-A and is favored win to another league championship after moving back to the Ocean League.

Senior Elliot Jamison has developed into the team's top singles player after learning to play the sport as a freshman. Jamison was strictly a doubles player until this season.

"Elliot has tremendous drive," Newman said. "He came in as freshman not having played much tennis and by taking private lessons and spending more time practicing, he has turned into a good tennis player."

Junior Amir Nassirzadeh, another relative newcomer to the sport, is the only returning singles player. Senior Leo Treyson and freshman P.J. Gopaoco form one doubles team while Newman searches for a partner for senior Jason Harrow.

"We don't have as much talent as we have had in the past," Newman said. "But this is a hard-working team. It will be interesting to see how well we do as a team."

Fighting to be No.1--In a showdown between the top City Section teams, Taft beat University, 6-1, last Thursday in a nonleague match at Taft. The Warriors also lost to Taft in the semifinals of the City championship last season. But don't count the Warriors out.

The defending Western League champions have three solid singles players in seniors Bryan Newell, Ali Zarrinnam and Sung Kim.

Although he has plenty of talent to form three solid doubles teams, Coach Tom Anderson, in his 21st season, has been debating whether or not the team would be better if Kim played doubles.

The tandem of Mike Schiamberg and Ari Marken work well together and will be paired for most of the season.

Kling-ing to the past--In 13 years as coach at Palisades, Bud Kling has won nine City Section titles. The Dolphins, however, appear to be in a rebuilding stage.

Although Palisades returns six starters from last season's team, which lost to eventual champion Chatsworth in the semifinals, Kling would not be surprised if Palisades lost the Western League to Palisades.

"Winning a league title is nice, but winning City is our goal," Kling said. "I think University is one player better than us in singles and has better experience in doubles. We're going to try to close the gap in doubles between now and June."

Saam Morshed, his younger brother Babak, Damon Steine and Marc Palazzo are the Dolphins' top singles players. Senior Robert Zaharia and junior Justin Miller are the top doubles team.

Starting fresh--Sirsa Shekim, an 18-year-old senior at Palisades High, proved you don't have to begin playing tennis as a toddler to be successful.

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