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Dolphins Reclaim City Tennis Title

Palisades Thwarts El Camino Real’s Bid for Record Sixth Straight Section Crown

Palisades' senior captain Darya Bakhtiar rips a forehand return winner during last Friday's City finals in Encino.
Palisades’ senior captain Darya Bakhtiar rips a forehand return winner during last Friday’s City finals in Encino.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

History was on the line when Palisades met El Camino Real for the City Section boys’ tennis title last Friday at Balboa Sports Center in Encino. Not only were the Dolphins vying for their first title in six years, they were also trying to protect a long-standing record. When it was over, Palisades had prevailed 16 1/2-13, reclaiming the trophy that once was its private property. “This is probably the most improbable title of them all,” said Pali Coach Bud Kling, who has won 27 section titles at the school–15 with the boys and 12 more with the girls. “When you consider that our No. 1 player, maybe the best in the City, quit before the season started, and that we lost two more singles players for various reasons, it’s a tribute to how hard the other guys worked.” Chris Ko, the Dolphins’ top player for three seasons, decided to sit out his senior year in order to concentrate on junior tournaments. Shortly thereafter, Kling suspended No. 2 player Ben Tom for failing to complete the off-season program. And just before the start of the playoffs, the Dolphins were dealt another blow when a third starter was ruled academically ineligible. Yet, through it all, Palisades persevered. “I can’t say this is the most talented team I’ve ever coached, but it may be the most resilient,” Kling said. “Whenever you lose a key player off your roster, it gives someone else an opportunity to step up and we had kids perform at critical times to get us points we needed.” The defeat brought an end to the Conquistadores’ 80-match winning streak and prevented them from establishing a new record for consecutive City titles. The Conquistadores’ five in a row equals the standard set by Palisades from 1969-73 under previous Coach Bud Ware and matched by Kling’s Dolphins from 1995-99. “Palisades won five in a row twice before us,” said El Camino Real coach Marvin Jones, whose team is 92-2 over the last six seasons. “There must be a reason why you can’t get that sixth. But we gave it a good try and I’m glad we had a shot at making history.” Palisades merely added to its own history with its 25th team title–nearly twice as many as all other City schools combined. The second-seeded Dolphins pulled off the upset Friday primarily because of their superiority in doubles, where they won seven of nine sets. The No. 2 team of Sepehr Safii and Mason Hays swept, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, while Pali’s No. 1 team of Darya Bakhtiar and Seth Mandelkern recovered from a 6-4 loss to win its last two sets, 6-4, 6-1. “We wanted to stop them from breaking our record, sure, but we also wanted to pay them back for beating us two years ago,” said Pali co-captain Neema Ghiasi, recalling Pali’s crushing 26-3 1/2 loss to El Camino Real in the 2003 City final. “I honestly didn’t think we could do it when Chris decided not to play, but when we got to the playoffs we started to feel more confident.” Ghiasi and partner Daniel Burge won two out of three sets at No. 3 doubles, including a 6-3 victory over the Conquistadores’ top duo of Alex Tobin and Jonathan Jacobs. “Our goal was to win eight sets in doubles, but it turned out that we got a few points in singles we weren’t expecting,” added Ghiasi, one of the Dolphins’ co-captains. “I think it surprised them that most of the close sets went our way.” Adam Deloje clinched Palisades’ victory with a 6-0 singles victory over El Camino Real’s Darius Borhan. A junior transfer from Loyola High, Deloje welcomed the pressure associated with being Pali’s No. 1 singles player this season. “I’m so glad to be at Palisades,” Deloje said. “I didn’t like Loyola at all. There were no girls, I didn’t like my classes… this is just a much better fit for me.” Realizing that the championship was one set away, Palisades players lined the fence to cheer their teammate on, as if he needed extra motivation. “I was well aware of the situation,” Deloje confessed. “Sure, I was a little nervous, but I got through it. There’s no way I was going to let the team down.” With the outcome already decided, Surjue dusted off Lang, 6-1, making the final margin more convincing. “What a way to go out,” said Ghiasi, who graduates in June along with Bakhtiar, the Dolphins’ other co-captain. “It doesn’t get any better than this.” The victory was Palisades’ third straight of the playoffs against a West Valley League opponent. Having ousted seventh-seeded Cleveland, 19-10 1/2, in the quarterfinals, the Dolphins advanced to the finals with a 17-12 1/2 win over sixth-seeded Taft last Wednesday. Surjue earned a key singles point by beating the Toreadors’ top singles player, Daniel Sagal, in a tiebreaker, and Palisades was again dominant in doubles, winning eight of nine sets. “They loaded up their singles lineup but it didn’t work because our doubles are so strong,” Bakhtiar said. “Our team is too balanced to try to stack against us.” Taft tied for third in the West Valley, considered the City’s toughest league throughout El Camino Real’s five-year reign. Kling hopes Palisades’ return to glory, along with Fairfax winning the Invitational championship, will earn more respect for the Western League. “A lot of people forgot about us because we haven’t won City in awhile, but we’ve been consistently competitive,” Kling said. “We always win our league and advance to at least the semifinals of the City tournament. Most programs would be very happy with that.” Asked if last Friday’s victory was the start of another dynasty, Kling admitted it is too early to tell. “Based on what’s happened the last few years, with all the players we’ve lost unexpectedly for one reason or another, I’ll have a better idea where we stand in the spring,” he said. “But we’re only losing two seniors, so if everyone comes back, sure, I think we have a legitimate shot to repeat.”

Golfers Lead City Tourney

Palisades High held a seven stroke lead over San Pedro after Monday’s first round of the City Section golf championships. The final round was played Wednesday on Griffith’s longer Wilson course, but results were unavailable at press time. Aiming for their 13th City title, the Dolphins shot 391 collectively, led by junior Ben Seelig, who carded an even par 72 on Griffith Park’s Harding course. Seelig was in contention for the individual title, two shots behind co-leaders Andrew Ok of Granada Hills and Mat Shin of Kennedy and one stroke behind Daniel Park of LACES. ‘It would be nice to go out and shoot the lowest score but the team title is more important to me,’ Seelig said. ‘Based on today’s results, I’m very confident we can do it.’ Palisades coach James Paleno, however, expected his team to have a bigger cushion. ‘We’re capable of shooting around 375 or 380,’ he said. ‘But if we can put up this same score on Wilson, we’re in great shape. Ben will be very focused because he’s got a shot at winning the whole thing and I expect Steven [Chung] to bounce back.’ Chung was four under through seven holes, but a string of bogeys on the back nine left him at three-over par 75. Fellow senior Jimmy Nissen shot a 78. Sophomores Ashton Roberts (81) and Jason Weintraub (85) rounded out the scoring while Austin Curtis finished with an 86. ‘The key is not to get ahead of ourselves,’ said Nissen, who carded a two-day total of 169 last year. ‘We have the lead, so the other teams are going to have to play really well to beat us.’

Baseball Opens Playoffs Away

Although suprised that his team was seeded only ninth in the City Section baseball playoffs, Palisades High co-coach Tom Seyler insisted he wasn’t bitter that the Dolphins didn’t get a first-round home game. Instead, Palisades opened the upper division playoffs Wednesday at eighth-seeded San Fernando (17-10), which eliminated the Dolphins, 5-3, in the first round last year at George Robert Field and won a nonleague meeting, 3-0, in March. ‘We haven’t proven we deserve to be a Top 8 seed,’ Seyler said. ‘And until we knock one of the elite teams off, we’re not gonna’ get the respect. It’s that simple. Until that happens, there’s no argument for me to make.’ In the Dolphins’ second game of the season, David Bromberg matched Tigers’ ace Matt Navarez pitch for pitch but Palisades committed four errors, three of which led to runs. The result of yesterday’s game was unavailable at press time, but if victorious the Dolphins will travel to top-seeded Chatsworth (26-3), one of the highest-ranked teams in the nation, for a quarterfinal game Friday at 3 p.m. The semifinals are next Tuesday, hosted by the higher seeds.

Prospero’s Island: Tempestuous, Indeed

Theater Review

With the help of a fairy and a monster, one man manipulates the strange events that occur on an enchanted island in William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest,’ on stage at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica. Prospero, a former duke-turned-magician, punishes his usurping brother, arranges his daughter’s marriage and finds release from the spirit-infested isle, all with the wave of his magic staff. Most remarkably, Prospero orchestrates everything with hardly any questions asked. And when his daughter Miranda does pipe up to question her father’s reason for raising the sea storm that sinks a ship of ‘precious souls,’ he quickly puts her to sleep so as not to disturb his crafty plan. Directed by Lewis Stout and produced by Polly Petersen and Saul Saladow, ‘The Tempest’ raises more than just a storm; it asks the audience to consider whether one creature’s struggle for power is more worthy than another’s. It also poses the question of whether Prospero abuses his power for noble or selfish means. The intriguing Santa Monica Theatre Guild production, which runs through May 28, has a distinctly modern tone. Think ‘Gilligan’s Island’ meets ‘Survivor.’ Women play four of the roles written as and traditionally performed by men: Alonsa, Queen of Naples; Sabatini, her sister; the Abbess Gonzala and servant Trincula have strange, moody and kooky personalities that clash when they arrive, sea-blown, on the island. The preliminary scene of their ship caught in the storm is particularly well-directed’the characters stand in pairs across the multi-level stage, their swaying bodies moved by the powerful winds. However, it’s a bit difficult to make out exactly what is being shouted as the ship sinks. The relationships between characters and their manner of speech also seem geared towards a more contemporary audience. For example, the servant Stephano (Jon Monastero) at times speaks in modern, street-slang rhythms as he initiates drunken revelry with his companion Trincula (Courtney Fine). Miranda sounds very much like a lovelorn teenager when she pleads with her father to be gentle on Prince Ferdinand (John Fabricant), Alonsa’s son and the second man Miranda’s ever seen. Prospero (Jack Winnick) is, on the one hand, a desperate father struggling to give his daughter a good life, which means reaffirming her royal status and freeing them from the island they’ve been stranded on since she was a baby. On the other hand, he is a scheming magician seeking revenge on his brother Antonio (Donald Heath) and Queen Alonsa (Susan Stangl) who, 12 years earlier, set them on a boat to die. Prospero’s appearance in a fall-colored patchwork robe, shawl of shells and sparkling staff is much less threatening than some of his actions on the island. His harsh treatment of Caliban (Andrew Wei Lin), the ape-like monster whom he shuts away in a cell within his cave dwelling and uses as a slave, reflects his desire to maintain some form of control and hierarchy. In the role of Prospero, Winnick is convincing as both a protective, controlling father and a pathetic but vengeful ex-leader. His scenes with Raegan Payne, who plays Miranda, are humorous in revealing his character’s inner conflict between protecting his daughter from her past and telling her the truth about her origins. Payne gives a strong performance as the innocent and curious Miranda, whose free-spirited girlish nature makes her lovable though naive in her quick commitment to Ferdinand. One of the best performances is by Juliette Storace in the role of Ariel, the cunning sprite who finds pleasure in creating chaos for Prospero, though what she really wants is freedom from any master. A vision in gold and chocolate bronze, Storace charms us with her lovely voice when she is not leaping around the stage, luring the shipwrecked characters here and there. Two visually enticing scenes occur back to back’a haunting banquet that fools and frightens Prospero’s oppressors, and a glorious masque, or pageant, that features local opera and dance talent. Kudos to the creators of the giant, purple winged monster that storms the stage during the banquet, a fiery vision and amazing technical feat. These scenes are probably juxtaposed to emphasize the contrast between the punishment of Antonio and Alonsa and the happy, impending marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, though arranging them so close together is a bit of a sensory overdose. The masque is written and directed by Tara Redepenning, with original music and musical direction by Darin Goulet. It is truly a treat to see the young Rainbow Messenger Ballet Dancers perform (choreography by Richard Culler) and to experience the sweet sound of the Masque Character Chorus, decked in sparkling masks and shimmering gowns (costumes by Anne Gesling). This mystical production of ‘The Tempest’ also has a permanent backdrop that changes color throughout the show, which enhances the dream-like atmosphere (lighting by Kate Barrett and set design by Lewis Stout). When all is said and done, Prospero relinquishes his staff as a sign that he is stepping down from his position of power on the island. However, it also feels as if he is an impresario, saying goodbye to his audience after conducting his own empowering and enchanting vision. Performances run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd. For reservations call 828-7519.

Martha Newman Ragland, 84

Martha Newman Ragland, a resident of Pacific Palisades for nearly 60 years, passed away May 9 from cardio-pulmonary failure. She was 84. Born on the Mississippi Delta in Clarksdale, on December 5, 1920, Martha was a graduate of the University of Tennessee where she was selected from a college annual picture to sign a contract with New York modeling agent John Robert Powers. She spent a year-and-a-half modeling in New York City before coming to Hollywood as an actress under contract to 20th Century Fox where she became a Goldwyn Girl, appearing in small roles in Danny Kaye films. In November 1947, she married film composer Alfred Newman, who headed the music department at 20th Century Fox. They purchased property in Rustic Canyon to build a home designed by architect Lloyd Wright. It was here they raised their five children. Martha and her family continued to live in Pacific Palisades after her husband’s death in 1970. All her children still reside in the Los Angeles area. She dedicated many volunteer hours to groups in her community, including Fashionettes, DAR, Westside L.A. Philharmonic Society, Community Bible Study and her local churches. A founding member of St. Matthew’s Parish, she also attended Calvary Church and, most recently, Palisades Presbyterian Church. Martha devoted her life to family and friends, who deeply loved her and will miss her. ”She is survived by her second husband, Robert Ragland; children Lucy (husband John), Fred (wife Norma), David (wife Krys), Thomas (wife Ann Marie) and Maria (husband Scott); 16 grandchildren, including Christopher, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Jaclyn, Steven, Matthew, Stephanie, Brianne, Diana, Evan, Julia, Jack, Martha, Isabella, Samuel and Noah; and three great-grandchildren: Aaron, Anna and Madelyn. A service will be held at the Presbyterian Church, corner of Sunset and El Medio, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 14. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Community Bible Study at 200 Fairbrook Dr. # 102, Herndon, VA 20170.

Jane Bishop Fahey, 80

Jane Bishop Fahey, a 34-year resident of Pacific Palisades, passed away peacefully at home in the arms of her family on May 5. She was 80. Born in Boston, Massachusettts, on September 21, 1924, Jane lived with her parents, Mary VanCourtland Richards and James Thoburn Bishop in Cleveland, Ohio, before moving to New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1934. She graduated from Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, as president of her class and Columbia University with an R.N. degree. She became a supervisory nurse at Presbyterian Hospital, where she met John Leslie Fahey, M.D. They married in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, in 1954. They lived in Washington, D.C., and London before settling in Chevy Chase, Maryland, to raise their three children. In 1971, Jane and John moved their family to a beautiful home in the Palisades, where they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. In 1972, Jane helped to organize the library’s Fourth of July parade float. She joined the Palisades Woman’s Club and enjoyed the friendship of many neighbors and resource persons in the village shops, banks and markets. In 1970, Jane suffered the onset of multiple sclerosis that progressively limited her activities. Yet she traveled with John to England, Ireland, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and Japan, cruised the Panama Canal, and spent three weeks on safari with family in East Africa. She participated in many celebrations with family and old friends. She was game to try it all. Jane loved gourmet cooking, big red wines, the L.A. Opera and the Philharmonic, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. She was a talented artist, a passionate naturalist, an avid gardener, a Girl Scout troop leader and a teacher of ecology to inner-city youth. In addition to her husband, Jane is survived by her children, Marguerite of West L.A., James (wife Kaoru) of Tarrytown, New York, and Catharine of Boulder, Colorado, as well as grandchildren Allison, Cassidy and Audrey. She was a radiant person with a wonderful laugh and an insightful sense of humor. Her patience, kindness and nurturing presence will be greatly missed. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 21 at 3:30 p.m. at Corpus Christi Church, corner of Sunset and Carey. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2440 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 115, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

Donald McDaniel, 73; Lawyer, Civic Leader

Donald C. McDaniel passed away on Saturday, May 7 after a short but courageous battle with cancer. He was 73. Born on April 2, 1932, McDaniel was a lifelong resident of Pacific Palisades after being born and raised in Beverly Hills. He graduated from Stanford University in 1954 and earned his law degree from UCLA in 1961. He practiced law in Santa Monica and Los Angeles for 45 years. After serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, McDaniel was active in civic groups, including the Young Republicans and the Santa Monica Rotary Club, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow. He is survived by his wife, Helen McDaniel; his son Scott of Idaho; daughter Margy of West Los Angeles; and five grandchildren. Words cannot describe the family’s sadness or how much they loved and will miss Don. They request that in his honor you forgive everyone for everything and that you take the first opportunity to embrace your loved ones and reaffirm the love you feel for them. Services were private.

Richard Griffiths, Longtime Resident of the Palisades

Richard W. Griffiths, otherwise known as Dick, died April 25 in Santa Barbara. He was 88. ”Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Dick graduated from the University of Washington in 1938. In early 1943, he accepted a position as staff member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where until the end of World War II he worked developing, installing, and testing microwave radar for the military. After the war, Dick became an independent consultant in the electronic and engineering fields. In the early 1980s, his interest in fiber optics resulted in the award of 11 patents in the U.S. and abroad. This led to his founding of G2 Systems Corp. In 1995 Dick survived pancreatic cancer. He firmly believed his cure was the result of prayers to Father Junipero Serra and devoted his remaining years to helping promote Father Serra’s path to sainthood. All of his medical records were turned over to the ‘Cause’ at the Santa Barbara Mission. Dick was an avid sailor all his life. Wherever his travels took him he managed to find a boat to sail. He built and raced Star boats on both coasts and was a life member of the Seattle Yacht Club. Dick and his family were residents of Pacific Palisades for over 40 years and were active members of Corpus Christi Parish. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Claire; son John of Beaverton, Oregon; daughters Sharon Troll and Robin Rodnick of Santa Barbara; and five grandchildren. A memorial mass will be held on Saturday, May 14, 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Montecito. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle.

Veteran LAPD Captain Vance M. Proctor, 60

Captain III Vance M. Proctor, commanding officer of the West Los Angeles Community Police Station, passed away on April 27 in Woodland Hills. He was 60. He had undergone an emergency appendectomy on April 10. Born in Dodge City, Kansas, in 1944, Proctor earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Cal State Northridge and a master’s degree in public administration at USC. He was appointed to the LAPD in 1967 and promoted to captain in 1986, serving in a variety of positions, including patrol, detectives, vice, traffic and transit operations. Proctor developed a number of innovative programs, including one to improve detectives’ interrogation methods and another that enlists citizen volunteers for criminal surveillance in the San Fernando Valley. He became area commanding officer for the West L.A. station last February. During his last year of service, Proctor was committed to maintaining two patrol cars in Pacific Palisades community and to reducing speeding. On April 29, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned in Proctor’s honor. Proctor is survived by his wife, Nina; daughter, Lisa Osborn; son, Todd; his mother, Helen; and two grandchildren. A graveside service was held May 7 at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood, followed by a memorial service at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley.

Boys Volleyball

The Falcons’ season ended in the Junior Delphic League wildcard playoffs as sixth-seeded St. Matthew?s fell to third-seeded St. Mark, 25-18, 25-18. The Falcons held a lead in both games and were led by Matt Bagnard, Andrew Goldberg, Connor Gill and Logan Shoop. Coached by former Palisades High girls? coach John Caravella, St. Matthew?s finished 6-6 and beat Windward to make the playoffs after failing to win a league match last season. Team finished the season with a record of 6-6.