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CIF-SS D-5 BOYS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS : Gahr routs previously unbeaten and top-seeded Magnolia for school’s first tennis title

The Gahr High boys tennis team captures the school’s first California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section championship in school history after upsetting top-ranked Magnolia High 14-4 for the Division 5 title. The Gladiators were a wild card team, but upset four ranked teams in 10 days.


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

CLAREMONT-Gahr High head coach David Thompson couldn’t have asked for a better performance than the one he saw out of his boys tennis team when the Gladiators faced top-seeded Magnolia High. The Gladiators, making their first trip to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section finals in school history, jumped out to a 5-1 lead after the first round and went on to rout the Sentinels 14-4 last Friday afternoon at The Claremont Club.

Gahr extended the lead to 9-1 and after a pair of losses, clinched the championship when sophomore Chris Rasch, the No. 1 singles player, blanked Magnolia’s No. 3, Anthony Tran 6-0. In fact, Rasch would not allow a point against either No. 1 Bao Diep or No. 2 Mong Moua.

“I’m just so happy,” Thompson said following Rasch’s win over Tran. “You’re so nervous, even when we were way up after two rounds. All my guys are playing nervous here in the third. So, now that it’s official, oh, it’s a great feeling.”

“For us, it’s great,” Rasch said. “Absolutely wonderful. First time to come here and we won.”

Rasch added that after the Gladiators (16-4) won their semifinal match against California High 15-3 last Wednesday, they decided that if the team had gotten this far, there was no way they were going to lose to Magnolia.

The wide margin of victory was a surprise to many, considering the Sentinels (21-1) came into the match undefeated while the Gladiators had to work their way out of the wild card portion of the bracket. Now, Gahr has upset the top two teams in the division, including Arrowhead Christian High 10-8 in the quarterfinals, plus seventh-seeded Bishop Amat High 10-8 and 10th seeded Foothill Technology High 13-5.

Also completing a sweep was freshman Josh Tesoro, the No. 2 singles player, who defeated Diep 6-3, Moua 6-0 and Tran 6-1. Freshman Ibrahim Ahmed, at No. 3, knocked off Moua 7-5 to end the match. Earlier, he defeated Tran 6-3 to end the first round and lost to Diep 6-3 to conclude the second round.

“I was proud of him today,” Thompson said of Rasch. “He can get a little bit temperamental out there. But he kept his emotions in check and just kept hitting the ball hard. It was awesome.”

“I was a bit surprised,” Rasch said of his performance. “I thought there were going to…they might have hit the ball harder, but it was alright.”

The top doubles team of seniors Julian Cruz and Meet Patel also had a clean sweep, including a 6-0 whitewash of Bao Nguyen and Nhan Phan, Magnolia’s No. 1 duo. Gahr’s No. 2 tandem of senior Ben Lee and Darrion Nghiem also swept their opponents, giving up six points in the process.

Magnolia’s best success came against Gahr’s No. 3 pair of sophomores Mohammad Khan and Isaac Wilcox, as Nguyen and Phan won 6-1 and No. 3 Abdul Ahamath and Hao Ly breezed to a 6-0. Wilcox was replaced by sophomore Ethan Kim in the final round where he and Khan fell to No. 2 Matthew Ambriz and Angel Varela 6-2.

“We’ve seen that Magnolia was undefeated all year,” Thompson said. “We thought we were in for a really tough match. And all of my players played their best matches in the first two rounds. They all played awesome and I think we just overwhelmed them right away because now, in the last round, it’s all real close.”

Thompson said winning the championship was a dream come true, but he has had teams on the level of the 2017 squad about every other year. He credits the move down to Division 5 as one of the reasons why Gahr can finally call itself a division champion. In the past, the Gladiators had faced teams from Division 1 and 2 who advanced to the semifinals this season.

Gahr becomes the second league team in the past three seasons to win a divisional championship as Warren High won Division 5 in 2015, beating Heritage High 9-9 (79-71 in points). The last time an ABC Unified School District school won a boys tennis championship was 2009 when Cerritos High knocked off Laguna Beach High 15-3 for the Division IV crown. Cerritos also defeated Rowland High 10-8 the previous season for the Division IV championship and Whitney High won the 2003 Division V title, beating Fairmont Prep High 11-7.