Culver City Observer -

Culver Tennis Is Off To A Great Start


April 16, 2015

Fred Altieri

Brian Lee

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

Tennis anyone?! That's the question the 2015 Culver City High boys tennis team is asking this season as they have rolled out to a 10-1 preseason record leading into league play.

The winning pace surpasses any the school has seen for the program in awhile.

More impressively, the wins have been over the renowned South Bay schools, non-league teams the Centaurs have had little to no success against in the past. The team began Ocean League play this week by hosting perennially strong Santa Monica High on a sunny but windy Tuesday afternoon.

Despite eventually losing 11-7 to the Vikings, many of the matches were close and Culver served notice that they are finally a team to contend with in the league. The fact that the Centaurs won five of the nine singles matches was remarkable in the face of recent history.

The program is led by long-time head coach Phil Rothenberg and assistant coach Seth Lewkow, a 2003 Culver High graduate who played under Rothenberg and dominated league tennis during his time as a student.

Coach Rothenberg on the team's success: "It is a result of growing with past experience. All the players competed at the varsity level last year except for one who played junior varsity tennis.

"The record includes two wins, home and away, over North Torrance, Torrance, and Redondo Union, teams we were unable to defeat last year. All of the matches were decisive victories... none were close matches."

Coach Lewkow spoke after the Santa Monica match: "Usually Santa Monica is a team that Culver City struggles with. We don't usually win too many sets. I can remember us losing a lot of the past matches 17-1, 18-0 or 16-2.

"We lost today but to have the score be 7-11 shows that the team is improving and we can take a bit of confidence in knowing that these guys had to beat us today. We just didn't give it to them."

The resurgent team features their top three singles players: senior Yamato Hayashi along with Connor Davis and Alex Marotti, both sophomores.

The four doubles teams have been just as instrumental in the team's success: Team #1 – Jan Rodriguez and Brian Lee, both seniors; Team #2 – senior Ben Berk and sophomore Elliot Shin; Team #3 – seniors Evan Dumas and Ray Clubb; Team #4 – senior Jamison Province and junior Raiden Sherk.

Rothenberg: "All three singles players very competent, have done quite well during pre-season competition and are close in ability. Their point play has improved in terms of aggressiveness, consistency, shot selection, stretching points and being patient."

Team co-captain Yamato Hayashi started playing in middle school when he took lessons at a tennis program in Westchester called The Tennis Key. He and co-captain Evan Dumas have provided the senior leadership the team has thrived on.

Hayashi spoke of the transformation:

"This year's team is awesome. Evan and I have been drilling these guys. Our responsibility is to be good role models. We've been practicing a lot, focusing, playing good points and playing well. They show up every day and train really hard. Everyone is committed.

"When I was a freshman we had an amazing group of seniors. Ever since then I've looked at them as my role models and wanted to be like them. Personally, I want my teammates to look at me as a good tennis player, someone to respect and look at me in a good light."

Rothenberg on the doubles play: "The doubles players have improved significantly in point play, especially with poaching, decision making, shot selection, consistency and cutting down on unforced errors."

Lewkow noted the impact of practice: "The culture of practice has been better this year. The guys have come to work hard, not to just come out and be a participant but to really put in their full effort. And it spreads. When you don't put in that effort you stand out.

"Everybody's pushing each other and working for the same common goal, which is to improve. With that usually comes victory. In fact, they've been playing tougher competition against their own teammates the day before and I think that's why we had so much success in the preseason. They're ready for it."

Rothenberg: "Earlier victories over Redondo, 16-2 and 17-1, were our first wins against them in over 10 years. Our only previous loss was a 16-2 thrashing at the hands of West Torrance, a very strong team from the Pioneer League.

Fred Altieri

Alex Marotti

"Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are traditionally extremely strong teams and have dominated us for years. We should be much more competitive with them this year and should advance in May to the CIF playoff Division 2 round and then hopefully into the main draw of the CIF team tournament."

Hayashi concluded: "Confidence has been a huge part of our winning this year. Last year we were going into games thinking that we were going to lose against the good schools. But this year we've gained a lot of confidence from practice.

"I really enjoy this tennis team. It's a part of my family. Everyone on the team is so unique, really smart academically and great students with great personalities. I want to thank all of them for supporting me, supporting the team and keeping it going. Victory is a good feeling. But it feels really good to win as a team."


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