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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | BOYS' TENNIS PREVIEW

Talented Wolverines Ready for Challenges

Boys' tennis: Harvard-Westlake makes case for region supremacy with deep lineup of highly ranked players.

March 22, 2000|LAUREN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Keith Huyssoon, the first-year coach of the Harvard-Westlake High boys' tennis team, believes the Wolverines are special, and he treats them that way.

Allowances are made for players preferring to work out with private coaches rather than teammates. The team is required to gather for only one practice a week, although many players get together more frequently.

In addition, the Wolverines have the toughest nonleague schedule in the region.

"I've got to do something to challenge these guys," Huyssoon said. "I believe my role as a coach is to try to address the needs of the players. Every chance I have, I want to keep them motivated."

Huyssoon petitioned the Southern Section--at the players' request--to allow the Wolverines to move up from Division II to Division I, where they will compete in the postseason.

The move comes after Harvard-Westlake won the Division II championship last year and two consecutive Division III titles before that.

Harvard-Westlake, which finished third in the first National High School Tennis All-American tournament at various sites in Orange County last weekend, will play in another national event in Missouri beginning Saturday.

Huyssoon also scheduled nonleague matches against Peninsula, ranked No. 2 in Division I; Beverly Hills, ranked No. 1 in Division III; traditional area power Calabasas, ranked No. 4 in Division IV; Brentwood, ranked No. 1 in Division V; and a home match today against Horrace Mann of New York, which also competed in the Orange County national event.

The Wolverines (9-2, 5-0 in Mission League play) are handling the rugged schedule well. Both of their losses are to Peninsula, in a nonleague season opener and in the semifinals Saturday. They defeated Corona del Mar, ranked No. 1 in Division I, in the third-place match of the national tournament.

Harvard-Westlake's lineup includes six players ranked among the top 65 in their age groups in Southern California, including four rated among the top 200 nationally.

Regular No. 1 player Prakash Amritraj, a junior who has yet to join the team because he is in the midst of an International Tennis Federation tour of Asia, is ranked No. 6 in Southern California and No. 21 nationally in boys' 16s. Senior Andrew Rosenfeld, playing No. 1 singles in Amritraj's absence, is ranked 18th in Southern California boys' 18s and No. 123 nationally.

Senior Aron Gortman is No. 24 in 18s regionally and No. 173 nationally. Sophomore transfer Jesse Ferlianto, the Foothill League singles champion at Hart last season, is ranked No. 28 in boys' 16s in Southern California and No. 145 nationally.

Senior David Frankel, the Wolverines' No. 2 player, is ranked No. 60 in Southern California in boys' 18s, and sophomore John Lee holds a No. 64 regional ranking.

Those players are part of the Wolverines' "A" team, but there is also what Huyssoon calls a "varsity B" team, which has played most of the Mission League matches and is better than most varsity teams.

"A team like this doesn't come along very often," Huyssoon said. "It's exciting, but it's also challenging. My immediate reaction when I took over was, 'Gee, I hope we can live up to the talent that's here.'

"I believe, in their hearts, they believe they can go toe-to-toe with any team in the country."

Now they're doing their best to prove it.

OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH

Westlake: The Warriors (4-0, 3-0 in the Marmonte League), who have lost in Southern Section divisional finals for three consecutive seasons, are primed to make another championship run.

The defending Marmonte champions (22-2 last season) lost No. 1 player Erik Janson to graduation. But Alex Yaftali, Westlake's No. 2 player for three seasons, has ably filled the top spot. He is ranked No. 33 in the boys' 18 division in Southern California.

Senior Narbe Zohrabi plays No. 2 singles. Westlake, which lost in the Division III final last year, was boosted by the return of No. 3 singles player Garrett Wong, ranked No. 16 in boys' 16s in Southern California. He played for the Warriors as a freshman and sophomore but sat out last season.

Westlake also boasts depth in doubles. The top team of seniors Mike Horak and Billy Corso returns, as does the team of junior Matt Pardee and sophomore Aaron Bert, who are battling junior Allen Kim and freshman Joshua Kuai for the No. 2 spot.

Thousand Oaks: The Lancers (5-1, 3-0 in the Marmonte League) advanced to the Division II semifinals and were second to Westlake in league play last year. They are expected to challenge the Warriors again.

Thousand Oaks returns seven players, led by junior Philip Sheng, the defending Southern Section singles champion and two-time defending Marmonte champion. He is ranked No. 6 in the boys' 18 division in Southern California and No. 37 nationally.

Also returning is No. 2 player Andrew Lieu, a sophomore who teamed with Willie Mullin to win the Marmonte doubles title and advance to the Southern Section semifinals last year. Mullin graduated.

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