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Prep duo sparks a Rebels renaissance

Kazangian and Byun, a combination three years in the making, grind out a senior season filled with success.

July 27, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

As the Flintridge Prep boys' tennis program grew over the last several seasons from a perennial afterthought to one of the school's success stories — winning and contending for Prep League titles annually and making a string of CIF playoff appearances — doubles players Eric Kazangian and Kent Byun served as cornerstones of the reconstruction.

"They were huge," Rebels Coach Ron Catano said of Kazangian and Byun's role in the renaissance that saw Prep go 29-21 over the past three seasons and win the Prep League crown in 2009 for the first time since 1939. "Those two guys, along with [No. 1 singles] Alex Wood, they were the reason why we had a such a good record the past three years. They were all talented and experienced for tournament play and they were just really tough when they would get out there.

"They were our good core guys that just put up wins like crazy. They're just super talented and they're great athletes. Without those guys, we wouldn't have been doing so well the past few years."

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In the first two years of his current tenure, which began in 2009, Catano had often teamed the two seniors, Kazangian and Byun, together with great results — they went 18-0 in league in their first year playing together as sophomores. He had also been known to split them up and have Kazangian, a No. 2 singles player as a freshman, go solo when team matchups dictated.

It was a dynamic that worked well enough until this year, when Kazangian's knee injury suffered during football season forced Catano's hand in forming his doubles lineup.

"[Kazangian] was complaining about some soreness and he never complained the past three years about anything," Catano says. "I thought maybe it's a better idea if he played with Kent, since Kent seemed to only want to play with Eric. Sticking them together just seemed like a no-brainer and they had the experience together."

With Kazangian's mobility limited, the Rebels' lineup options overall may have been hindered, as well, but the change had the silver lining of bringing out yet another stellar season from one of the Rebels' top tandems.

"I thought we actually had a really hard time playing together at first," Byun says of his and Kazangian's collaboration in past seasons, when they were more often split up and played in the singles bracket, as matchups dictated. "This was the first season where we played most of our matches together."

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