Eagles take early league lead with win over rival Spartans

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Yuu Ishikawa competes at No. 1 singles Thursday at Mountain View, where she won in straight sets over Elise Joshi.

Going into Thursday’s early-season girls tennis match between Los Altos and Mountain View highs, Eagles coach Hung Nguyen and Spartans coach Frank Smyth mentioned the other’s team – along with Gunn – as their biggest challengers for the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division title.

Los Altos pulled ahead of the pack with a 5-2 road victory in which its top singles and doubles players won in convincing fashion. Freshman phenom Yuu Ishikawa prevailed 6-3, 6-0 over Elise Joshi at No. 1 singles, while the duo of Kylie Akiyama and Krithika Nathamuni defeated Yvonne Lin and Jayna Dave 6-4, 6-1 atop the doubles ladder.

“I was quietly confident that we were going to win, because we have a lot of talent at the top and a little more depth than they do,” Nguyen said. “But we had to bring our best, full-strength lineup to beat them – it was a tough match.”

Despite the result, rival Mountain View – which edged Gunn 4-3 earlier in the week – isn’t about to give up on its chase for first place. Smyth was encouraged by the Spartans’ effort and is eager to face the Eagles again.

“Our performance was close to (theirs),” he said. “We could have picked up No. 2 singles – we lost in a third-set tiebreaker – (and) also another doubles match that would have made a difference. So we will prepare for our next match (against Los Altos) Oct. 10.”

The Eagles tipped the scales in singles with senior Nadia Ghaffari’s 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (7) triumph over sophomore Alena Pruett at No. 2. Earlier, Los Altos’ Karina Shah Chavez cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Selen Gokcen at No. 4 singles.

Mountain View’s lone singles win came courtesy of No. 3 player Dasha Terson, who beat Celeste Tran 6-1, 5-7.

“Dasha has been a really big surprise,” Smyth said of the freshman. “She has very good groundstrokes, a strong serve and is tough-minded.”

The Spartans’ No. 2 doubles team of Emma Ukrainczyk and Saila Khuntia provided their other win of the afternoon. The duo defeated Aline Wu and Hannah Pashenkov 7-5, 7-5.

At No. 3 doubles, Los Altos’ Katherine Lim and Priya Dixit defeated Kalea Vandeventer and Taanvi Singh 6-2, 6-4.

“They are a good team,” Nguyen said of Lim and Dixit, who played together at No. 2 as sophomores last year. “They work well together.”

Thursday’s win pushed Los Altos’ record to 2-0 in the El Camino Division and 7-1 overall. The Eagles’ first four wins came at the California Tennis Classic in Fresno, where they won their group. The nationally ranked Ishikawa didn’t make the trip, which allowed Ghaffari to move back to the No. 1 singles spot she occupied last season.

“Nadia played really well,” Nguyen said. “Having her and Yuu on the team, we basically have two No. 1 players.”

Mountain View also has two players capable of playing No. 1, according to Smith. Joshi has made a rapid rise to the top spot – she played No. 4 singles as a freshman last year – and junior Pruett is coming back from a knee injury that sidelined her for the 2016 season.

“They’re pretty even,” Smyth said. “They may flip (positions), but they haven’t played a challenge match yet.”

The coach is more concerned about doubles, which he believes is the key to Mountain View’s chances of winning league.

“We hope to get the doubles a little more competitive,” Smyth said of the Spartans, who are 1-1 in league and overall. “We have a chance if we can get them playing up to their potential.”

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