The 2021 season has already been a historic one for Millikan athletics. The Rams have won repeat Moore League championships in girls’ cross country and girls’ soccer, plus an outright title in softball, representing some of the most successful periods ever for those programs.
Enter Millikan boys’ tennis, with a chance to accomplish even more in this unique sports season. The Rams went unbeaten in Moore League play this year to win the program’s first league title since 1997, and are the top-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 4.
Their success continued last week at the individual league finals, where it was a Millikan sweep. Sophomore Andy Nguyen defeated freshman teammate Nolan Alvarez in the boys’ singles final, then the two underclassmen paired up to win the league double’s title in dominant fashion, dropping just a single game in their four matches together.
This season has been a whirlwind for longtime Millikan coach Torie Frapwell, who is one of two coaches in the league that’s been coaching both their boys’ and girls’ tennis programs simultaneously. Frapwell was confident that last season could be special for her boys’ team, led by a strong senior class and a talented freshman in Nguyen. Unfortunately, that season was cut short due to COVID-19, meaning they didn’t have the chance at a 2020 league title.
“I had pretty high expectations, I felt like we were definitely contenders,” Frapwell said of last year’s Millikan squad. “We had a pretty solid singles lineup to kind of lead the way for us. It was always gonna come down to doubles, so we had to put in the work, and I had a team that was willing to work so our practices were a lot of fun.”
That work ethic and enthusiasm translated into the 2021 team, even with the departure of those senior leaders. Frapwell said this year’s team was hungry to get back on the court and continue its push for success.
“They had the energy, they had the drive,” said Frapwell of how this year’s team returned following the cancelation. “As soon as I opened practice up, those boys were out there, so they were ready for it.”
After more than two decades of trying, this year’s group was finally able to conquer the Moore League and win that elusive team championship. Frapwell said she was a nervous wreck leading up to the final match against Long Beach Poly, and had an emotional moment when team captain Lucas Mikasa gave her a high-five after the team won its clinching point.
From the start of the school year, Frapwell said the team was frequently engaging with one another and bonding via Zoom, which allowed for a smoother transition once practices resumed. That mentality carried over into the season, and the Rams’ collective work ethic and love for the game has made the difference.
“I have a really solid group of guys that are all here for the right reasons,” Frapwell said. “They just love playing tennis. I’ve never had a team that had quite as much interest in just being out there and hitting every chance they can get. They take themselves over to El Dorado when there’s free courts and they’ll hit there, if they could stay after practice, they’d stay and hit. So it’s just a bunch of kids that are really enjoying what they’re doing.”
The team’s success has relied on a collective effort, both in singles and doubles play. Dylan Bustamante and Luca Giacomazza are the top doubles team for the Rams, and Mikasa has been a valuable player at the No. 3 singles spot, in addition to his role as captain. Of course, the addition of two underclassmen who were the last two players standing at league finals doesn’t hurt either.
Nguyen in particular has been a welcome addition to the program, having gone unbeaten for his entire high school career thus far. He never got to finish his freshman season, but has been terrific as a 10th grader, and will help spearhead the Rams’ efforts in the CIF-SS playoffs. Following his singles’ and doubles’ titles at league finals, Nguyen isn’t resting on his laurels as Millikan enters the postseason.
“I’m just gonna train harder, and hopefully just keep going with this momentum,” Nguyen said. “Because we’re a great team. I’m just going to train hard, hopefully my teammates train hard, too, and we can keep this run going.”
Having a special talent at the top of the lineup is certainly a difference-maker, but it’s happened before at Millikan, and for the Nguyen’s. Andy is the fourth sibling from his family–joining sisters Mimi and Cindy and brother Danny–to win a Moore League singles’ title for the Rams. But this season, the supporting cast is more established for the Rams, allowing them to finally get over the hump for a Moore League crown.
“As much as I’d love to give Andy the credit, we’ve had it in the past with his siblings and everything, and it’s only taken us so far,” Frapwell admitted. “We’ve had lots of number two (finishes), so it definitely takes a whole team to be there.”
Millikan earned a first-round bye as the top seed in the CIF-SS Division 4 boys’ team tennis bracket. The Rams will host a second round match this Saturday at 3 p.m. against either San Gabriel or Santa Fe.
Going back to 1957, a Moore League boys’ tennis team has never won a CIF championship. But in a historic year at Millikan High, maybe that’s another record that’s destined to fall.
In Division 3, Long Beach Poly begins its playoff run on Thursday with a first-round match at Torrance High.