New Head Coach Sees a Bright Future

Varsity Boys Tennis

From left, head coach Karina Akmedova, Gene Suk, Ken Koyama, Evan Strittmatter, Ben Pestana (kneeling), Desmond Chan, Alex Betts, Sigmund Goodstein, Andrew Lee and Ryan Summers. Photo by Harry Yadav

The varsity boys tennis team at South Pas High (4-3 overall, 0-2 in league) is just getting its footing as it nears the midway point of league play.

The talented young group has endured a tumultuous past two weeks with a change at the helm, but new head coach Karina Akhmedova believes the boys still have plenty of time to build a strong foundation for the program going forward.

“If we can create structure to our practices and our program,” the 2007 SPHS graduate said Tuesday, “hopefully next year we can live up to the team that we are, because this group has potential.”

This year, the Tigers’ number one player is sophomore Desmond Chan. Chan moves smoothly around the court, outlasts hard-hitting opponents, and possesses a full arsenal of shots – including a soft drop shot he masterfully uses to move opponents off the back line. 

During the team’s 15-5 loss to La Cañada Tuesday afternoon, the sophomore frustrated the Spartans’ number one into throwing his racket at the fence multiple times and shouting expletives. 

Tigers’ number one, Desmond Chan Photo by Harry Yadav

Akmedova expects Chan and singles number two, Ben Pestana, to be the leaders of the team next year. South Pasadena’s third singles player is Andrew Lee, one of the Tigers’ three seniors.

On the doubles’ side, seniors Ryan Summers and Ken Koyama form the team’s number one pair; sophomore Sigmund Goodstein and junior Gene Suk make up the team’s number two pair; and, junior Alex Betts and sophomore Evan Strittmatter form the third pair.

The Tigers have only one substitute player, which can cause fatigue and potentially cost the team a loss. If more than one player misses a match, South Pas will have to sacrifice points. However, their coach says, the opportunity for everybody to play is exactly what a young team needs to gain experience.

Akhmedova was an elite athlete in her time at SPHS, earning a Division I scholarship her senior year to play at Cal State Fullerton. She returned to South Pas after college to coach at the junior varsity level for three years before transitioning to coaching at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena.

She has high expectations for the future of the program.

“I wish I had some more time with the boys this year, but I believe we can win Division III next year if we build a strong foundation,” she said.