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CdM boys’ tennis beats rival Sage Hill, reaches CIF quarterfinals

CdM boys’ tennis beats rival Sage Hill, reaches CIF quarterfinals
Corona del Mar High's Tyler Hollander returns a shot as his partner Luke Muradliyan waits during the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Friday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The No. 3 doubles team can be as important as the No. 1 singles player in a high school tennis match.

Corona del Mar High juniors Luke Muradliyan and Tyler Hollander proved it Friday during the Sea Kings' home match against rival Sage Hill in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

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Muradliyan and Hollander made a big rally at No. 3 doubles against Sage Hill's tandem of Steven Ferry and Robert Gerschultz. Down 5-2 in the first round of the match, they rattled off five straight games for a 7-5 victory.

"I think we brought our intensity up a lot," Hollander said. "Sometimes our energy is a bit down, but we raised our level."

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CdM coach Jamie Gresh called it a huge swing set. Sage Hill coach Zoran Korac called it a turning point.

Instead of the match being tied after the first round, CdM had a 4-2 lead. The Sea Kings were on their way to a 13-5 victory over the Lightning, advancing to the Division 1 quarterfinals for the third straight season.

CdM (18-3) has to wait a day to see which team it plays in the quarterfinals on Monday. No. 3-seeded Manhattan Beach Mira Costa's second-round match at La Cañada was postponed until Saturday due to rain. CdM will play at home Monday if the opponent is Mira Costa, but would travel to La Cañada.

CdM senior captains Ryan Wessler and Jacob Cooper swept 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in doubles Friday. Muradliyan and Hollander also swept for the Sea Kings, winning 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

CdM got at least one set win from every spot in the lineup. Freshman Bradley Amor and junior Matt Lobel won two doubles sets, while junior Kyle Pham and senior Diego Fernandez del Valle won twice in singles. Freshman Will Pellegrini also contributed a singles victory.

Gresh said he was happy with the production across the lineup, and that he was excited for a possible match against Mira Costa if the Mustangs (21-1) advance as expected. The teams have not played since the 2016 Division 1 quarterfinals, a tension-filled match won by CdM by a 10-8 score.

"I feel like we're playing good tennis at the right time," Gresh said.

CdM had clinched against Sage Hill (12-5) by early in the third round. Lobel played in the starting lineup as Gresh said usual doubles starter John Dick, a sophomore, was in China due to a family situation. Gresh said Dick will be back for Monday's match.

Lobel and Amor nearly blew a 5-2 lead in their second-round set against Sage Hill's Brian Yu and Ian Huang, but they hung on for a key 7-5 victory.

"They played well at practice [Thursday] and won both of their sets, and then did it again today," Gresh said. "We got the productivity we needed out of them."

Junior Emin Torlic and sophomore Rohun Krishnan each earned two singles wins for the Lightning. Still, CdM won eight of the nine doubles sets, which also happened when CdM earned a 12-6 nonleague win over Sage Hill on April 5.

The future appears bright for Sage Hill, which was competing in Division 1 for the first time in program history after advancing to the Division 2 semifinals a year ago. Huang is the only senior on the roster.

"When I saw the draw, I was a little bit bummed because I knew that CdM was a pretty tough team," Korac said. "I still felt good today, but things didn't fall the way we wanted them to. But I'm super-excited to have a year under my belt in Division 1."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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