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Eli Whittle’s 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 wins lead Arroyo Grande to easy win in first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 boys tennis playoffs

Arroyo Grande High freshman Eli Whittle rips a backhand return against Darian Ramirez of West Ranch in their first-round CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoff match Wednesday.
Arroyo Grande High freshman Eli Whittle rips a backhand return against Darian Ramirez of West Ranch in their first-round CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoff match Wednesday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Lori Hollister is fully aware that high school students’ attention spans can naturally tend to waver as the summer nears.

“At this time of the year, I think, typically it would be tough to keep kids up (in terms of their focus) as we get close to graduation,” said Hollister, the Arroyo Grande boys tennis coach.

It’s of no matter to the Eagles’ top two singles players, though. They don’t have to think about graduating for a while.

Eli Whittle and Sean Hollister, both freshmen, swept three matchups apiece Wednesday afternoon to lead Arroyo Grande to a 13-5 rout of visiting West Ranch of Valencia in the opening round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs.

“It’s really exciting,” Lori Hollister said of the potential of the young tandem. “I’m hoping over the next year that they’re going to grow physically and mentally, and that’s only going to help them more.”

Whittle, who recently claimed the PAC 7 individual title and is rated as a three-star college prospect by TennisRecruiting.net, won 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 Wednesday.

“Their tournament play on weekends is what gives them that edge coming into these matches,” Hollister said. “One thing about these boys that they’ve learned is that one set can go either way. Even if it looks like there’s a stronger player out there, they’re always going to feel confident they can take one set off a guy.”

Sean Hollister won his sets 6-0, 6-0, 6-2.

“We’ve known each other for a couple years now,” Sean Hollister said of Whittle. “It’s good to have a nice practice partner who’s my age, too.”

With the win, the Eagles (17-3) advanced to face the winner of the matchup between Arcadia (17-3), the Pacific League champion, and Glendora (12-10), a wild-card squad that finished third in the Sierra League. Arcadia also hosted Wednesday, so if it won as well, a coin flip this morning would determine the host site for the second-round matchup, which will be at 3 p.m. Friday. If Glendora won, however, the Eagles would have to travel there.

Arcadia entered the divisional bracket as the No. 4 overall seed.

“It’ll be tough, but we’re up for the challenge,” Lori Hollister said.

Heading into the postseason, Arroyo Grande had to undergo a brief adjustment period so it didn’t get carried away with its recent regular-season laurels, Hollister said.

A week ago, the Eagles swept a season series with PAC 7 runner-up San Luis Obispo to wrap up an undefeated league campaign and claim their first such championship in 26 years.

“The trick is keeping that momentum, that high that we had after the San Luis match,” coach Hollister said. “Going into this match today, we told them to clean the slate, and that we were just starting all over again. We started a whole new season today.”

Not coincidentally, it had also been since 1984 that Arroyo Grande had beaten San Luis Obispo in dual play.

“We also had other goals after that, too,” Sean Hollister said of moving on from the rivalry’s historic turn of events. “We can potentially go really far (in the postseason).”

The Eagles found themselves ranked No. 9 or No. 10 in the divisional poll much of the season prior to falling just outside the top 10 in recent weeks.

“It’s good to get through the first round, and we did it pretty dominantly,” Whittle said. “We want to go deep in (the playoffs) this year, and we have a team capable of doing so.”

Kenji McKinstry provided the other singles win for Arroyo Grande on Wednesday.

In doubles, the Eagles’ Danny Williams and Evan Lange swept 7-5, 6-1, 7-5. Meanwhile, the duos of Ian Moynagh and Jordan Hayashi, Tyler Yager and Brent Moore, and Norbert Mocan and Kyle Beile also came up with victories for Arroyo Grande.

“I’ve been really impressed with the amount of confidence and enthusiasm they’ve continued to uphold this late in the season,” Lori Hollister said.

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