Crescenta Valley High girls' tennis Coach...


September 22, 2004

LA CRESCENTA -- Crescenta Valley High girls' tennis Coach Tom Gossard

knows all about Katy Nikolova.

He knows she has the talent and work ethic required to be a top

high school player. He also knows the 14-year-old Bulgarian is primed

to make an impact for Coach Paul McNiff's Burbank High program.

Nikolova has already made a difference for the Bulldogs.

She swept her three sets Tuesday, helping Burbank defeat the


Falcons, 13-5, on at CV.

It marked the first time the Bulldogs have defeated CV since 1998,

a year before the Falcons started their streak of five consecutive

Pacific League championships.

"It's great to see Katie doing so well," Gossard said. "I expect a

great four-year career for her. She's always been a good kid. We all

know about her work ethic, and with her talent, she's going to go a

long way."

Nikolova -- ranked No. 57 in the Southern California Tennis

Assn.'s girls' 14 division -- had plans to attend Glendale High two

weeks before the season. She practiced with the Nitros, and Glendale

Coach Bob Davidson expected to have the freshman standout on his

team. But Nikolova said her family decided to move to Burbank a week

before the school year.

"It wasn't my decision," she said. "It was my parents who made the

decision. But I miss [Davidson]. I really liked him.

"My goals are to be the No. 1 player on the team, get straight

'As' and hopefully turn pro one day."

McNiff is glad Nikolova's family chose Burbank.

She is 16-2 this year, and has provided the Bulldogs with more

depth in singles.

"It's not just about me," Nikolova said. "The whole team is a

family. It's not one person who makes the whole team. It's the whole

team that makes itself."

Burbank -- which lost their No. 1 singles player and defending

Foothill League champion, Marianna Khachatryan, who is being

home-schooled and has decided not to play for the team -- dominated

singles competition Tuesday.

The Bulldogs swept all nine singles sets, as Nikolova won,

6-1,6-4, 6-1. Senior Natalie Rafaelian won, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 and

Lucy Youchkovets won, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

"The opposition doesn't have an obvious girl to pick on, and

that's showing today," said McNiff, who was a junior varsity girls'

tennis coach in 1998 when the Bulldogs defeated the Falcons, 88-79,

in games in a match that lasted more than five hours.

"Katy gives us the depth back in singles. It will help us compete

in league. But we could still struggle to make the playoffs. Valencia

and Saugus are good teams."

McNiff said he needs his team (5-1) to win the majority of doubles

sets to compete against Saugus and Valencia, which are packed with

top singles players.

CV (3-2) took five doubles sets against the Bulldogs, including a

sweep by the No. 1 team of Luana Choi and Natalie Abou-Chakra.

McNiff said he realizes the Falcons are going through a

transitional year.

They advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II semifinals

last year for the first time in the program's history, but graduated

their experienced players.

Gossard wasn't about to make any excuses, though.

"We got beat by a far better team," he said. "Burbank is good and

it is balanced. They really [outplayed] us today."

Youchkovets earned the Bulldogs' ninth set victory and Rafaelian

clinched the win with a triumph against Falcon No. 3 singles player

Tiffany Mann.

Burbank's No. 1 doubles duo of Diane Grair and Summer Zapata, both

seniors, won two sets. Vera Affi and Sizhe Liu, and Leslie Fule and

Siripa Chakavarnmongkol, each won a set.

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