Mustangs advance to first CIF boys tennis final


Otay Ranch junior Marlon (M.J.) Abarca finished a perfect 12-0 in postseason competition without allowing a point. Photo by Phillip Brents

The Otay Ranch High School boys tennis team made school history by advancing to its first San Diego Section championship finals last Saturday at the Barnes Tennis Center in Point Loma.

The sixth-seeded Mustangs fell, 11-7, to the top-seeded Canyon Hills Rattlers in the Division III championship match. But head coach Dan Woodard’s team still left a message — one that every Otay Ranch player can be proud of.

“It was a competitive match but, in the end, Canyon Hills was just too deep a team and we were a little shorthanded,” Woodard said.

The Mustangs were behind the eight ball from the start as four players had to leave early because of conflict with the school’s prom.

For those who were able to stay, it was an experience they will likely remember for some time. Even for those who had to leave early, it still had to send chills up their spine.

“It’s been a season to remember for this special group,” the Otay Ranch coach said.

The Mustangs finished fourth deep in the six-team Metro-Mesa League behind Eastlake, Bonita Vista and Mater Dei Catholic.

Eastlake received the No. 7 seed in the Open Division playoffs and lost, 13-5, to second-seeded Canyon Crest Academy, the eventual division champion.

Bonita Vista received the No. 8 seed in the Division I playoffs and defeated ninth-seeded Rancho Bernardo, 10-8, in the opening round on April 26. The Barons advanced to meet top-seeded Westview in the ensuing quarterfinals the next day, dropping a 13-5 decision to the eventual division champion Wolverines.

Mater Dei Catholic received the fifth seed in the Division III field and defeated 12th-seeded West Hills, 11-7, in the opening round. The Crusaders advanced to meet fourth-seeded Monte Vista in the quarterfinals and eliminated the Monarchs, 11-7, to advance to the semifinals on April 28.

Top-seeded Canyon Hills stood in the way of Mater Dei Catholic’s path to the finals by defeating the Crusaders, 14-4.

Otay Ranch received the No. 6 seed and managed to hurdle itself into the division championship game with victories against 11th-seeded University City (12-6 in the first round), third-seeded Helix (13-5 in the quarterfinals) and second-seeded Point Loma (10-8 in the semifinals).

The section finals were the first held in three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first section finals in any sport to held this spring.

The boys tennis championships date to 1961 when La Jolla defeated Grossmont, 23-5, to win the first section title. The tournament is one of the oldest high school championships of its type in the country.

Otay Ranch freshman Robert Ovruchesky returns service in the CIF finals. Photos by Phillip Brents

Make no mistake, the Mustangs left their mark on this year’s tournament.

Top singles player M.J. Abarca, part of last year’s history-making mixed doubles championship, finished postseason play undefeated in four rounds of the playoffs by winning all his 12 singles matches by 6-0 scores.

Abarca finished 3-0 against Canyon Hills while Ken Blancarte finished 2-1.

Abarca won this year’s Mesa League singles title while Blancarte teamed with Josh Woodard, the coach’s son, to place fifth overall in the doubles competition.

Abarca and Blancarte accounted for five of the team’s wins in the championship round against the Rattlers.

Forehand or backhand, M.J. Abarca delivered results in the playoffs. Photos by Phillip Brents

Ken Blancarte, left, and M.J. Abarca led Otay Ranch with five of its seven wins in the Division III final.

Josh Woodard and the doubles team of Armando Lizarraga and Alejandro Morales picked up the other two wins.

“There were a lot of good players in the playoffs,” Blancarte said. “It’s amazing that we made it this far as the No. 6 seed.”

“It felt really good,” said Abarca, who received the No. 5 seed for the individual CIF tournament. “It shows that my hard work is paying off in a good way. It made me want to get more wins.”

“It was a good playoff run getting wins against three teams that had beaten us in the regular season and pulling off the upsets at No. 3 Helix and the next day sweeping all nine singles matches at No. 2 Point Loma.”

The Otay Ranch High School boys tennis team made history by appearing in its first San Diego Section Division III championship match. Photos by Phillip Brents


Photos by Phillip Brents

Otay Ranch Mustangs
Division III Runner-up

Josh Woodard follows through on a serve.

Sportsmanship award winners
San Diego Section Division III team champion Canyon Hills Rattlers





Tuesday, April 26

(1) Bishop’s 14, (8) La Jolla 4

(4) Torrey Pines 12, (5) La Jolla Country Day 6

(3) Del Norte 10, (6) St. Augustine 8

(2) Canyon Crest Academy 13, (7) Eastlake 5



Wednesday, April 27

(1) Bishop’s 15, (4) Torrey Pines 3

(2) Canyon Crest Academy 12, (3) Del Norte 6



Saturday, April 30

(2) Canyon Crest Academy 12, (1) Bishop’s 6




First Round

Tuesday, April 26

(1) Westview 15, (16) Patrick Henry 3

(8) Bonita Vista 10, (9) Rancho Bernardo 8

(5) Carlsbad11, (12) Mt. Carmel 7

(4) Scripps Ranch 14, (13) Pacific Ridge 1

(6) San Marcos 11, (11) La Costa Canyon 7

(3) San Dieguito Academy 13, (14) Grossmont 5

(7) Poway 11, (10) Coronado 7

(2) Cathedral Catholic 14, (15) Santana 4



Wednesday, April 27

(1) Westview 13, (8) Bonita Vista 5

(5) Carlsbad 9, (4) Scripps Ranch 9 (Carlsbad wins 78-75 in games)

(3) San Dieguito Academy 13, (6) San Marcos 5

(2) Cathedral Catholic 13, (7) Poway 5



Thursday, April 28

(1) Westview 14, (5) Carlsbad 4

(2) Cathedral Catholic 9, (3) San Dieguito Academy 9 (Cathedral Catholic wins 69-65 in games)



Saturday, April 30

(1) Westview 12, (2) Cathedral Catholic 6




First Round

Tuesday, April 26

(1) Valhalla 11, (16) High Tech High San Diego 7

(8) Classical Academy 9, (9) Santa Fe Christian 9 (Classical Academy wins 68-62 games)

(5) Steele Canyon 13, (12) Fallbrook 5

(4) Mission Bay 11, (13) Valley Center 7

(6) Mission Hills 11, (11) San Diego 7

(3) Sage Creek 16, (14) Tri-City Christian 2

(7) El Capitan 10, (10) Army-Navy Academy 8

(2) Francis Parker 16, (15) Calexico 2



Wednesday, April 27

(1) Valhalla 14, (8) Classical Academy 4

(4) Mission Bay 11, (5) Steele Canyon 7

(3) Sage Creek 10, (6) Mission Hills 6

(2) Francis Parker 13, (7) El Capitan 5



Thursday, April 28

(1) Valhalla 13, (4) Mission Bay 5

(3) Sage Creek 10, (2) Francis Parker 8



Saturday, April 30

(3) Sage Creek 12, (1) Valhalla 6




First Round

Tuesday, April 26

(1) Canyon Hills 12, (16) Vincent Memorial 6

(9) San Pasqual 10, (8) Mira Mesa 8

(5) Mater Dei Catholic 11, (12) West Hills 7

(4) Monte Vista 10, (13) El Camino 8

(6) Otay Ranch 12, (11) University City 6

(3) Helix 12, (14) Escondido 6

(7) Clairemont 9, (10) Olympian 9 (Clairemont wins 74-68 in games)

(2) Point Loma 10, (15) Brawley 8



Wednesday, April 27

(1) Canyon Hills 13, (9) San Pasqual 5

(5) Mater Dei Catholic 11, (4) Monte Vista 7

(6) Otay Ranch 13, (3) Helix 5

(2) Point Loma 12, (7) Clairemont 6



Thursday, April 28

(1) Canyon Hills 14, (5) Mater Dei Catholic 4

(6) Otay Ranch 10, (2) Point Loma 8



Saturday, April 30

(1) Canyon Hills 11, (6) Otay Ranch 7

Mustangs advance to first CIF boys tennis final