|High Desert Tennis Association|
Tennis notebook: Not the time for teamwork
By GERALD TANG / Staff Writer
After a season full of team spirit, it’s every man for himself now.
An individual sport finally becomes an individual sport when the Desert Sky League and Mojave River League championships kick off Friday. Each tournament pits the top 15 singles players and 15 doubles squads against each other in a single-elimination draw.
To determine the bracket, the players are ranked by coaches' vote. The top seed receives a first-round bye, which is especially a bonus during a one-day marathon that starts at 8 a.m. (The MRL held the tournament over two days in the past, but coaches voted to change it this year, partly out of concern for academic testing).
With each school sending its three best singles players and doubles squads, matchups between teammates are inevitable. Reigning champ Apple Valley advanced five players to the MRL finals last year: both doubles finalists and singles runner-up Neil Panjwani.
"I tell them each, 'You're the best,'" Apple Valley coach Linda Esquivel said, laughing. "I say the same things privately to them, make them feel equal."
Sun Devils senior Donnie Wicks knows the feeling. Coming off a 27-0 league record in his sophomore season, Wicks lost to Panjwani in last year’s MRL tournament.
During preseason, Wicks and junior teammate Ethan Stockton squared off in the Scorpion Invitational. Each won a set before Stockton prevailed in a tiebreaker.
On Friday, the finalists in singles and doubles will earn an invite to the CIF-Southern Section Individual championships. Wicks said he might have a better shot at a deep postseason run on the doubles side.
"I would like to go further in CIF," he said. "I've played CIF singles in past years, and the the guys are very good. It’s a tough task."
AND THEN THERE’s THE PLAYOFFS: The top three teams in each league earn a CIF playoff berth. In the MRL, Sultana, Serrano and Rim of the World are locked in the top three slots. Granite Hills and Silverado are set in the DSL, while the final spot will go to either Burroughs or Barstow.
The regular season ends today, and the playoffs start Tuesday. The MRL will compete in Division III, while the DSL plays in Division IV.
TRIVIA TIME: Serrano’s No. 1 singles player Sam Sussman is the nephew of former Major League Baseball slugger Brady Anderson.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Singles — Silverado senior Ben Zagala has been sharp since the season opener, and he’s only getting stronger. Zagala led the way in two crucial DSL victories, sweeping against Barstow and Victor Valley by a combined score of 36-6.
Gerald Tang can be reached at email@example.com or 951-6281.