Valley News -

By Daniel Robbins

Great Oak wins fifth straight Southwestern League boys' tennis title, advances in CIF playoffs

Howe, Burdick-Rutz, and Lee win individual League Championships


Last updated 5/17/2018 at 10:59am


Great Oak's boys' tennis team, who have gone undefeated in league play for the fifth straight season, are the 2018 Southwestern League champions.

They did it again. Great Oak brought home another team league championship in 2018, this time in dominant fashion. Not only were they undefeated in league play for the fifth straight season, but no Southwestern League team was able to get more than 4 sets against them.

The Wolfpack boys' tennis team beat a good second place Temecula Valley team 14-4 and 15-3 and dominated the rest of the league matches.

This year Coach Ray Fisher also scheduled tough CIF Division 1 nonconference teams (Palm Desert, Cypress and Yorba Linda) and this year's strong Great Oak team still finished the regular season at 23-0 (10-0, league).

As a result, Great Oak earned a No. 1 seed in the CIF Division 2 team playoffs. But Fisher and his team are taking nothing for granted: "Every Team is tough in the CIF playoffs." Fisher said, "Our goal is to execute our game in every set. If our guys come to play we will have a shot against anyone."

Although the team is most excited about the team CIF playoffs, the individual league championships took place last week and Great Oak was dominant again, showcasing their depth.  

Steven Howe, Great Oak Senior, won the singles individual championship, qualifying for the CIF individual singles draw which will take place after the team CIF tournament. "League (individual) Finals was big for the team. Everyone overall played good in the tournament giving the guys good confidence going into (team) CIF. It's the best shot we've had in a couple of years and it will be a fun next couple of weeks," Howe said..

Showcasing their depth, Great Oak swept the doubles individual league championships. Raymond Lee and Ben Burdick-Rutz won the doubles title, beating teammates Andy Gibson and Thomas Westman in the final. Both teams earned individual CIF invitations. John Burdick-Rutz and Martin Arabshahi rounded out the sweep for Great Oak finishing third.

Senior Ben Burdick-Rutz points to a team-first attitude with an eye toward the future. "Being a league (individual) champion doesn't change my dedication to the team as a whole. My first priority is to the team," Burdick-Rutz said. "It was a great tournament for our doubles and the match play should prepare us for the difficult teams we will face in CIF. Being part of a team that has been so dominant and being recognized for our success on campus has been fun. Great Oak has such outstanding athletic programs. I hope with our team doing well we have inspired future Great Oak players to carry on the tradition, to be part of our great team, and improve themselves for what comes after high school."

Now that the CIF-SS tennis finals are underway, Great Oak, seeded No.1 in Division 2, easily dispatched their opponents in the first two rounds, leaving them the only area team still standing. The two playoff victories required entirely different strengths for Great Oak.

In the first round, Palm Springs High School brought a dominant singles player, Michael Cabacungan, who was undefeated going into playoffs. Steven Howe beat him 6-2 with dominant strokes and Mehran Arabshahi also won in a close match with amazing consistency and tenacity. The Great Oak doubles teams easily all swept, giving Great Oak a 17-1 victory.

In the second round, South Torrance High School stacked doubles with their top four players and that strategy of stacking doubles can lead to a closer score or even an upset when a team is unlikely to win in singles, but the true key is winning in the No.3 doubles position and stealing at least one singles match. In the first round it paid off for South Torrance, but thoughts of an upset were quickly dashed when all 3 singles players (Howe, Arabshahi and Keon Anwar) and the No. 3 doubles team of John Burdick-Rutz and Martin Arabshahi all won 6-0. It would be a tough day for South Torrance Singles with zero singles wins and a final team match score of 13-5.

In other area updates, Temecula Valley (14-6, No.2 in the Southwestern League) avenged an earlier loss this season by defeating Riverside King (9-9, 71-70 in games) in a dramatic Division 2 first round finish. In the second round, TVHS lost to Crescenta Valley High School 12-6.

Vista Murrieta (No. 3 in the Southwestern League), drew No.1 seed Troy and lost 17-1 in the first round. In division 4, Hemet lost an opening match to Redlands East Valley 15-2.

Great Oak now is the sole remaining local tennis team in the CIF playoffs.

"Against Palm Springs our singles players had a tough challenge, and against South Torrance it was reversed; singles dominated and doubles had a tough test but proved they could play with league championship level players. We are feeling good that our singles and doubles played well against significant challenges in the first two rounds," said Head Coach Ray Fisher.


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