Arroyo Grande rolls in boys tennis playoff opener

Eagles sweep the nine singles sets in its rout of Millikan

nwilson@thetribunenews.comMay 8, 2013 

Arroyo Grande High’s Eli Whittle won his singles sets 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 Wednesday in the Eagles’ 16-2 CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoff win over Millikan.


Over the past four years, the stats accumulated by Arroyo Grande High senior tennis players Eli Whittle and Sean Hollister are phenomenal. 

Whittle’s PAC 7 singles record is 100-1 and 217-13 overall, while Hollister is 116-8 in league and 213-33 overall. 

Together, they’ve led their team to a 48-0 mark in league and 83-14 overall. 

On Wednesday in a home match against Millikan of Long Beach, Whittle and Hollister embarked on their final CIF-Southern Section postseason high school run by sweeping their first-round matches and leading their team to a 16-2 win in the Division 3 playoffs. 

Whittle won his three matches 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 while Hollister was victorious with a 6-0, 6-4, 6-0 performance after signing his National Letter of Intent to play tennis at UC Santa Cruz earlier in the day. 

Whittle previously announced that he’ll play tennis at Brown.

“I think that Sean made his decision to play there, he has been much more relaxed and focused on the court about his tennis, and the same with Eli,” Eagles coach Lori Hollister said. “I think once you make that decision, you put that behind you.” 

Hollister said that Sean, her son, is a team player and wants to finish the season out well. 

She acknowledged feeling “a little bit of emotion here today because if we travel on a Friday, you never know if it could be your last match at home.” Nonetheless, she and the team are doing all they can to keep on going.

The Eagles hope to make a deep playoff run after losing in the quarterfinals last year. 

They’ve moved down to Division 3 after playing in Division 2 last season, and Hollister believes their bracket is fairly favorable, though she expects tough matches ahead. 

Rarely pushed in many of their matches during the season, Whittle, Hollister and the Eagles’ No. 3 singles player, Derek Lakowske, faced a test in Millikan’s No. 1 player, Danny Nguyen. 

The Rams’ freshman, who stands about 5-foot-4, lost each of his three sets but won 10 games combined off Arroyo Grande’s singles players and battled the Eagles with long points on ground strokes. 

Whittle outmatched Nguyen with his pace on his serve and pinpoint accuracy with groundstrokes.

“I was trying to attack and stay aggressive,” Whittle said. “I was demoing a new racket today and trying some new things. I think from here on each match gets tougher and we have to expect that.” 

After the match, the Eagles were awaiting the result of the match between Trabuco Hills and Great Oak. 

If the Eagles play Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo, a coin toss would decide where the match is played because both teams hosted their first-round contests. If the Eagles play Great Oak, they’ll be on the road.

Moving forward, Lori Hollister said she’ll have to gauge whether to use Lakowske as a singles or doubles player because he has vacillated between the two this season depending on strategy against certain teams.

Against Millikan, Lakowske, a junior, displayed a powerful serve and said he likes coming to the net. Lakowske said the Eagles expect to get farther this year than last year’s loss in the quarterfinals, and has made that a team goal. 

“We want to get a lot further than quarterfinals,” he said. “That’s our focus and I think we have the potential to do it.” 

Hollister also came to the net when he had opportunities, particularly against Nguyen when he was able to get him on the run and charge on slice backhands to put points away. 

But Hollister also had to pump himself up during the match by talking to himself and expressing his frustration after poor shots or decision making. 

“I just was trying to compete today,” Hollister said. “You have to find a way to win when you’re hitting good shots and when you’re not hitting the ball well. I really didn’t have a big plan other than to compete well.”

The Arroyo Grande doubles teams overall played well after a bit of an inconsistent start, which included a 7-3 win in a tiebreaker at 6-6 by Ryley Anderson and Cole Laughton. 

Anderson said they “played really bad” because their opponents were push hitters and didn’t provide much pace on the ball, creating problems with rhythm on their shots.

“We hate playing against teams that don’t have pace,” Anderson said. “But you just have to laugh it off.” 

They went on to sweep, winning their next two sets handily, 6-3, 6-1. 

Anderson’s twin brother, Tyler, and his partner, Bryan Rozo, also swept their doubles sets 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 to beat Millikan, which made it to the first round after a wild-card win against Highland on Tuesday.

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