First published in the Oct. 7 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Though San Marino High School tennis coach Melwin Pereira is too bright and experienced to look beyond any foe, it’s a safe bet that even he would acknowledge that the 2021 season will come down to the two matches against La Cañada to determine who wins the Rio Hondo League championship.
Pereira and San Marino have won the last 12, and the squad hopes to make it a baker’s dozen by the end of the month. San Marino traveled to La Cañada on this week; the result being decided after the Tribune’s deadline. Tennis aficionados have the opportunity to watch the regular-season rematch on Thursday, Oct. 21, when the Titans host the Spartans at 3:30 p.m.
San Marino won its first two league matches of the season last week over Monrovia and Temple City by respective scores of 17-1 and 16-2.
Junior Selena Wu went 3-0 in singles action to pace the Titans with freshman Giselle Gandakusuma also going undefeated against Monrovia. Mia Lin picked up two more singles points to contribute to the cause.
In what Pereira considers the crucial doubles results, the team of seniors Elaine Wu and Camdyn Wu pounced on their Wildcat counterparts for a 6-0 set victory. Pereira then sent out sophomore Selene Yung to team with Camdyn Wu for a win and Yung played a set with Chloe Tseng, which also resulted in victory.
Other doubles combinations included Valerie Kuo and Mandy Rivera, Anjali Rao and Mandy Rivera, Katie Lui and Isabelle Kang and Katie Lui and Carina Yang. No matter who San Marino sent to the service line, the outcome was always victory.
There were a few different names but the result was the same as San Marino overwhelmed Temple City last Thursday afternoon. Selena Wu won two sets before ceding to Selene Yung, who also won a game. Elaine Wu and Giselle Gandakusuma also swept their three opponents.
In doubles action, Carina Yang and Katie Lui went 2-1 while the teams of Mandy Rivera and Isabelle Kang and Valerie Kuo and Camdyn Wu each went 3-0 to seal the victory.
A 13-5 loss at Arcadia remains the only blemish on the Titans’ record.
San Marino’s title streak was in jeopardy when SMHS and La Cañada met this past May until then-senior Anna Moller and Isabelle Kang, a sophomore at the time, pulled off the win of the day — a 7-5 victory over their final Spartan doubles opponents of the match that provided the tipping point to close out the pesky Spartans. What few at La Cañada High School’s tennis courts knew at the time was that had Moller and Kang lost that set and the match gone to the tiebreaker that is implemented in the event of a 9-9 deadlock in sets, the Spartans would have prevailed 66-65 by virtue of total games won.
Memories of that victory are still fresh in the mind of Pereira, who has overseen the entire championship streak that on that day reached a dozen.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Pereira said. “Anna and Isabelle came through huge for us that day. They were able to take out a college-level player and her partner, who was also an excellent player.”
Moller is gone — the lone graduate from the squad — but Kang is still on a roster that might even be better than the one Pereira sent onto the courts this spring.
Though they lost the league title to San Marino in the spring, the Spartans advanced all the way to the semifinals of the CIF Open Division, where they were defeated by Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, the eventual champions.