M. Tennis: Trio of players sign with four-year schools

(L-R) Nikita Katsnelson, Sasha Krasnov and Aleks Trifunovic sign with four-year schools
(L-R) Nikita Katsnelson, Sasha Krasnov and Aleks Trifunovic sign with four-year schools

In the last two seasons, the Cerritos College men's tennis team relied mainly on a trio of international players. The three rewarded the college with a pair of South Coast Conference championships, as well as outstanding individual accolades. They all signed their National Letter of Intent with their new four-year schools and include Sasha Krasnov (UC Irvine), Nikita Katsnelson (Concordia University) and Aleks Trifunovic (Hope International University).

"I'm very proud of these guys and their advancement in two years," said head coach Alvin Kim. "Everything about them is different... some of them didn't even know how to do laundry when they first got here. Now they're earning tuition to play. The maturity (of their game from their first season to the second) is always the key, and that leads to better backhands and fewer errors, etc. I'd like to say the best thing we teach them is doubles, but we cover every base."

Krasnov and Katsnelson were one win away from becoming the second Falcon doubles team to win a CCCAA State Championship, but were upended in the finals. They finished with a 20-4 record as a tandem on the year, which included a pair of South Coast Conference doubles titles. As freshmen, the two advanced to the state semifinals. The trio helped Cerritos post a combined 51-6 dual team record in two seasons.

In singles play, Krasnov, who was a combined 37-7 in singles in his two seasons, advanced to the state semifinals as a freshman, while Katsnelson was a quarterfinalist and went 28-12 in his singles career. Trifunovic advanced to the Round of 16 in both singles and doubles as a sophomore, while he was a combined 31-14 in singles play in his Falcon career.

"Sasha will start for UCI next year, and will be our only D1 transfer," added Kim. "But he knows what (previous Cerritos players) Nathan Eshmade and Derek Siddiqui did for Cerritos in their D1 tenures, and we will expect much from him. Nikita is choosing Division II because it will better fit his personality. Concordia has the type of coach that can help him grow and we expect him to be a star there and make us proud. Aleks is choosing Hope International because of friends he has there, and will play high up in the order as he did at Cerritos. He played #4 on last year's #2-ranked team, and this year at #3."

The trio continue a history of international players that have competed for the Falcons, including Nathan Eshmade, who became the first player in school history to win both the state singles and doubles titles (2014).

"The success of former players played a major role in the recruiting process," continued Kim. "We've had several Division I transfers before, and some were nationally ranked. But a number of players did go Division II and so on. Nathan Eshmade was international, but Derek Siddiqui was local, Kris Anda (Air Force) was local, and I would say that it's the volume of transfers that give us a good reputation as a program."

Falcon players join together for the quartet who signed their NLI.