Culver City Observer -

Culver Tennis Ends Encouraging Season


Fred Altieri

From left, Connor Davis, Yamoto Hayashi, Alex Marotti

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

Game. Set. Match. The Culver City High boys 2015 tennis season came to a close 92 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway in determined but conclusive fashion with a 16-2 first round CIF Division 1 playoff loss to talented Santa Barbara High on Wednesday, May 13.

The Centaurs were only one of two at-large teams to be invited to the elite division tournament.

The boys finished the regular season with a 13-5 record. Their only season losses were to Division 1 powerhouses Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara and to top Division 2 team West Torrance in their opening match of the season. They finished third in the Ocean League behind Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

Head coach Phil Rothenberg noted "It was our first winning season in four years and the first time ever selected to the division one playoffs. To be placed in this draw with the top teams in Southern California is an impressive accomplishment.

"This was also the first time since I've been the coach that every team member was involved in the league finals. All three singles starters and all four doubles teams competed at Beverly Hills last week. Normally only a few are selected to participate. It was a good experience for the younger team members."

One of those younger team members is singles player Connor Davis, a sophomore. Davis pushed Beverly Hills' #2 seeded player in a hard-fought loss during the Ocean League Finals two weeks ago. That propelled him to win one of the two sets from Santa Barbara.

"We were very excited to be accepted into the Division 1 tournament. I was looking around and our team was giving it their all. Everyone was putting the fight into it and that encouraged me even more," said Davis.

"I felt tentative in my first match but played my hardest and really wanted to win for the team. I wasn't playing my best as I wasn't hitting through the ball. After feeling frustrated losing that set 1-6, Yamato (Hayashi, Culver's #1 singles player) looked at me like: "Come on, you're better than this." That helped a lot."

Davis continued: "I then played their #3 player. Alex (Marotti, Culver's #3 singles player) had just played him. I tried to calm down and not get out of the points as before. But again it was the same outcome."

Davis played one last match against Santa Barbara and made the most of it. "I told myself that it was the last set of the day and I wasn't going to walk out of here like this. I tied down all of my emotions, forgot about the last two sets, focused on what I needed to do and played my hardest.

"I started moving him around, pinpointed his weaknesses and focused on what would make me successful on the court. That's when I started playing my best tennis. Game by game I started moving up and I finally beat him 6-3."

The doubles team of Jan Rodriguez and David Fortugaleza took the other set from Santa Barbara. It was the four doubles teams that secured many of the team victories this season.

Davis agreed: "I looked over to the doubles matches and we were all encouraging each other's matches.

"I like our doubles teams. They're solid. Jan (Rodriguez) and Brian (Lee) are really strong. It takes a lot to play doubles. Whenever I try to play doubles it's difficult for me. I don't even know how those guys do it."

Coach Rothenberg praised this year's varsity players featuring Yamato Hayashi, Alex Marotti, Connor Davis, Jan Rodriguez, Brian Lee, Ben Berk, Elliot Shin, Evan Dumas, Ray Clubb, Raiden Sherk and Jamison Province.

But the future of the program will rely on the JV squad moving up. "Many of these players are not far behind our varsity level players and will move ahead to contribute on next year's team," said Rothenberg.

They include David Dumas, David Fortugaleza, John Geller-Perkins, Bryan Sanchez, Jesse Olivera, Adam Hough, Alex Stenshoel, Alex Zelaya, Albert Junmonte, Elias Przygode and Froy Rodriguez.

Davis spoke about his tennis background: "My dad was my first coach and taught me how to play tennis. I was seven or eight when I picked up a racket but I wasn't serious about it.

Fred Altieri

Jan Rodriguez

"When I was 14 I took lessons with a man named Roger Smith. He tightened up my game, showed me patterns and a better backhand. But my dad taught me everything I know. He's the man."

Coach was proud of his Centaurs but realistic: "The trip to Santa Barbara gave our players a first hand view of the strength of Division 1 and certainly gave them incentive to keep working to improve. Beverly is rated as the 2nd best team in Division 1 while Santa Barbara is the #6 seed. Santa Monica is a very strong team.

"Fortunately, after next year CIF will revert back to the strength of each program when determining division assignments. So in the fall of 2016 and 2017 our teams will drop down to a more realistic level. The team showed steady growth over the last three years, worked hard to improve and was rewarded for their efforts."


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