It’s definitely helpful for a team when last year’s No. 1 player, Jordan Sabella, who was undefeated in league play and made it to the BVAL championship match (where he lost in three sets to Freedom’s Bob Harris), graduates and is replaced by a junior who also went undefeated in league play last year, Abid Ahmad. Ahmad, who was the No. 3 player last year, worked hard in the off-season and recently beat out a senior, Jon Shu, for the team’s top spot. One of three Ahmad brothers on Antioch’s team, Abid won his match against Nicholas Arroyo 6-3, 6-4.
“We’ve got a good seasoned team this year,” said Panthers Coach Larry Johnson, whose squad finished second last year with a 13-2 record. “We have a lot of depth, probably more depth than I’ve ever had since I’ve been coaching. Our top four JV players can probably play varsity doubles.”
Shu is no slouch on the court. He was 14-1 last year and is a good athlete who played football last fall. He won his match over Jeff Matteri 6-4, 6-2. Antioch’s No. 3 player Amin Nabati, in his third year of singles competition, beat Jake Belarski 6-4, 7-5. The other two Ahmad brother also won: Zahid beat Matt Ploeg 6-2, 6-4 and Rashed prevailed over Justin Monge 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(5). In doubles action, Antioch’s Nick Malve and Fernando Melgoza beat Drake Miller and Jordan Diaz 6-3, 6-1. In the No. 2 match, Antioch’s Edzel Pacheco and Sean Lang beat Terry Liggins and Tyler Foster 7-6(5), 7-6(5).
Freedom’s two bright spots were their lowest-ranked players. At the No. 6 singles spot, Falcon Vince Sandoval beat Reynaldo Davila 7-5, 6-3. And Freedom’s No. 3 doubles team of Cameron Klein and Daniel Kwak beat J.R. Abad and Andrew Velo 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4.
So while it looks to be a learning year for Freedom, which dropped to 0-2 in league and 0-3 overall, Antioch appears on track to equal or better last year’s second-place finish. Its main competition will likely be Heritage and Deer Valley. “I definitely think we’ll be in the competition – one of the top three teams, I think,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of hard to say until we’ve played everybody once. But just judging on all our experience, I would hope that we would be right up there near the top.”