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CdM almost upsets No. 3 Mira Costa in CIF boys' tennis quarterfinal

It had been two years since the Corona del Mar High boys' tennis team had played against Manhattan Beach Mira Costa.

The Sea Kings and Mustangs met Monday in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, just like they did in 2016. One difference two years ago was that the Mustangs played at home, while Monday's match was at CdM.

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The result ultimately also was different than the Sea Kings' 10-8 victory in 2016.

In a match that was close throughout, No. 3-seeded Mira Costa pulled off a 9-9 (81-77 on games) victory to end CdM's season.

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Mira Costa coach Joe Ciasulli said his team advanced to the Division 1 semifinals for the first time in program history. The Mustangs (22-1) will play No. 2-seeded Studio City Harvard-Westlake, a 13-5 winner over Woodbridge in another quarterfinal, in a semifinal match Wednesday at a site to be determined.

"It's going to be a tough battle going forward," said Ciasulli, who added that Mira Costa set a program record with 22 wins this season. "But that's OK, because we've qualified for [the CIF Southern California Regional playoffs] now. That will be cool. We'll keep playing."

CdM (18-4) cannot say the same. The Sea Kings needed to win Monday to qualify for the CIF SoCal Regionals. They gave the upset bid their best shot, earning ties of 3-3 after the first round, 6-6 after the second round and 9-9 after the final round.

But CdM was down in games after each round, 28-26 after the first round and 57-54 after the second round. The Sea Kings never quite did catch up.

The seniors came through for the Sea Kings, as Diego Fernandez del Valle won twice in singles and Jacob Cooper and Ryan Wessler won twice at No. 1 doubles. But Cooper and Wessler lost a tiebreaker set to Mira Costa's top team of Kyle Sillman and Julien Lilla, 7-6 (7-1), in the second round. Cooper and Wessler did battle back from a 5-2 deficit in the set to force the tiebreaker, but a win would have given CdM a 7-5 sets advantage headed into the final round.

Sillman and Lilla swept 6-3, 7-6, 6-1 for the visitors. The 6-1 came in the last round against CdM's freshman duo of Bradley Amor and Will Pellegrini, who still played well in winning twice. CdM coach Jamie Gresh also switched up his lineup by putting junior Luke Muradliyan in singles, where he won once and got three games off Mira Costa's top player, Evan Fortier, who won all three of his sets.

"I thought it was the smartest lineup we could have put out," Wessler said. "We just came up a little short. I missed some shots I should have made, and we ended up losing that tiebreaker, which really would have made a difference in the outcome of this match. It's bothering me right now, but I'll get over it in time."

Kyle Pham won once in singles for CdM, while Tyler Hollander and John Dick won once in doubles. Matthew Poh won twice in singles for Mira Costa, losing only to Fernandez del Valle, 6-4, in the last set of the match completed.

Gresh said he was proud of the team, which finished second in the tough Pacific Coast League and advanced to the Division 1 quarterfinals for the third straight season.

"We played well, we just came up a little short," Gresh said. "I thought our doubles played really well, but we just needed to play better in the third round. They got two 6-1s on us, and that was probably the difference. With a 10-game gap right there, it was tough to recover from that.

"The margins were thin, and the guys knew it was going to be close. [The Mustangs] just played a little better than us in the clutch moments, so credit goes to them."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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