Local teams swing through CIF Southern Section playoffs

— It has been two weeks since Great Oak won the Southwestern League boys’ tennis titles in singles and doubles play. A lot has happened in the local high school tennis world since then. So, let’s catch up.

At the Murrieta Tennis Club, Friday, April 29, the top prep tennis players from all six Southwestern League high schools met to challenge their way through the tournament brackets. Round one doubles matchups were set up as follows:

  • No. 1 seeds Eric Rutz-Robbins, and Nick Huang of Great Oak, versus, Colin Rieder and Vicente Ochoa of Murrieta Mesa.
  • Vaughn Willmer and R.J. Umali of Chaparral High School, versus Evan Alexander and Ryan Duncan of Temecula Valley.
  • Nicholas Pinero and Noe Leivas of Temecula Valley, versus, Dayton Ohm and Travis Keeler of Vista Murrieta.
  • Joses Fernandez and Christopher Mueller of Murrieta Valley, versus, No. 4 seeds Blake Cherry and Tanner Stock of Great Oak.
  • No. 3 seeds Kaiden Mertzel and Landon Schneeloch of Temecula Valley, versus, Matthew Graham and Matthew Frankot of Vista Murrieta.
  • Pierce Macken and Nathan Lowe of Vista Murrieta, versus, Luke Engelbrecht and Jordan Strand of Chaparral High School.
  • Rocco Ammirata and Dakota Rowland of Murrieta Mesa, versus, Travis Geske and Dominick Ramirez of Murrieta Valley.
  • Noa Bell and Trent Geske of Murrieta Valley, versus, No. 2 seeds Matthew Gonzalez and Jensen Davis of Great Oak.

Great Oak’s top-seeded Rutz-Robbins and Huang, with 6-0, 6-0 wins over Rieder and Ochoa, advanced to face Willmer and Umali of Chaparral (6-1, 6-0 victory) in the quarterfinals and Fernandez and Mueller of Murrieta Valley (6-0, 6-0) in the semifinals, before advancing to the finals.

Great Oak head coach, Ray Fisher, stands with his 2022 Southwestern League title holders, Nicholas Huang (L), Ian McGowan and Eric Rutz-Robbins. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Temecula Valley’s No. 3 seeded team of Mertzel and Schneeloch knocked out Graham and Frankot of Vista Murrieta (6-1, 6-0), Macken and Lowe of Vista Murrieta (6-3, 6-0) and Great Oak’s No. 2 seeds Gonzalez and Davis en route to their final’s appearance.

Rutz-Robbins and Huang laid claim to the SWL Doubles title with 6-3 and 6-0 victories over Mertzel and Schneeloch. Nick Huang actually won the SWL Singles title in 2021 and Eric Rutz-Robbins has now won two consecutive SWL Doubles titles.

The Southwestern League Singles tournament took place next, with the matchup’s being set as follows:

  • No. 1 seed Owen Pearson of Murrieta Valley, versus, Chad Hayes of Temecula Valley.
  • Jackson Foltz of Great Oak, versus, Logan Valentine of Murrieta Valley.
  • Jackson Suemnick of Chaparral, versus, Gianny Ammirata of Murrieta Valley.
  • Kevin Le of Temecula Valley, versus, No. 4 seed, Luke Moore of Great Oak.
  • No. 3 seed Aidan Hever of Murrieta Valley, versus, Arkan Patel of Vista Murrieta.
  • Jacob Fuller of Murrieta Valley, versus, Michael Masarani of Temecula Valley.
  • Danny Saghun of Murrieta Mesa, versus, Kieran Bell of Murrieta Valley.
  • Alex Qiu of Chaparral, versus, No. 2 seed, Ian McGowan of Great Oak.

The finals match would come down to Great Oak’s top player, Ian McGowan and the Southwestern League’s No. 1 seed, Owen Pearson of Murrieta Valley. Pearson’s toughest match leading up to the finals was against Luke Moore (Great Oak), who he beat 10-5 in the tie breaker set). As for McGowan, he had a 6-0, 6-1 win over Qiu (CHS), a 6-1, 6-0 win over Bell (MV), and 6-3, 6-0 wins over Hever (MV) in the semifinal match.

Great oak’s Ian McGowan won the Southwestern League boys’ tennis Singles title. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

Ian McGowan went on to win the finals match over Pearson with 6-1 and 6-0 victories, making him the first Great Oak sophomore to ever win a Southwestern League Singles title. The Wolfpack went first and third in singles and doubles placement in the Southwestern League championships.

As for local schools continuing their boys’ tennis seasons, Great Oak, Temecula Valley, Murrieta Valley, Heritage, West Valley, Paloma Valley, Orange Vista, Temescal Canyon, and Citrus Hill all received CIF Southern Section postseason berths, which started Wednesday, May 4.

Ivy League runner-up Heritage was the lone Inland team to receive a Top 4 seeding this season. The Patriots (18-4), the No. 4 seed in the Division 4 bracket, opened their postseason run on the road at Sultana (13-4), with a 12-6 win. Division 1 Southwestern League champion, Great Oak (17-5), hosted Mira Costa (12-12) in their first-round matchup, but fell 13-5, ending their season.

Aside from Heritage, Temecula Valley was the only other team to advance out of the first round but fell in on the road in their second-round match to Los Alamitos, 13-5. The Heritage Patriots took out Montclair High School 10-8 in their second-round matchup and were home to take on Arlington (17-3), in the quarterfinals Monday, May 9.

Behind solid outings from Andrew Ramos and a sweep of all nine points in doubles, Heritage knocked off Arlington, 11-7. Remle Capati and Jonathan Leohhardi won 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in the Doubles No. 1 spot. Adrian Magana and Angel Casillas won 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 at No. 2 Doubles, and Ben Taylor and Alex Ahlswede won 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 as the No. 3 Doubles team. The Patriots will head to top-seeded Cerritos (14-8) for a Division 4 semifinal match Wednesday, May 11, in the afternoon.

The winner there will head to the Division 4 finals, which will take place Friday, May 13. Playoff brackets can be seen on the CIF Southern Section website at www.cifss.org.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.