As first-year varsity players, Corona del Mar High boys' tennis coach Jamie Gresh knows that sophomores Ari Coskinas and Oliver Kim feel that extra little bit of pressure.
Gresh saw improvement in that area from his No. 3 doubles team during Thursday's nonleague match against Mira Costa. Coskinas and Kim won two sets and nearly swept.
"Just getting on the board first with a win kind of set the tone for their day," Gresh said. "They're settling down, not getting so nervous in these matches."
The most nervous one was Coskinas' mother, Kim, who couldn't seem to stand still during the long rallies. She is used to pressure-filled situations, as Ari's older sister Marina was a senior water polo player for CdM this year, but tennis is a bit different.
Kim apologized a couple of times for getting so into the points. There really was nothing to worry about, though. The Sea Kings were in control.
Corona del Mar cruised to a 14-4 victory over Mira Costa, giving the hosts good momentum headed into this weekend's Corona del Mar All-American Invitational tournament. CdM, which is unseeded in the 16-team tournament, opens against Rancho Bernardo of San Diego at 8:30 a.m. Friday at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.
CdM (4-1) left no doubt against Mira Costa (2-4-1). The Sea Kings even widened their advantage from when they beat the Mustangs, 13-5, in last year's CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals. Thursday's match was all but over after the first round, when CdM jumped out to a 6-0 advantage.
Bjorn Hoffmann, Ryan Andrews and Jonny Rhone won in singles. Senior captains Carson Williams and Josh Kliger, as well as the No. 2 team of Tyler Gaede and Samee Aboubakare, and Coskinas and Kim, all won in doubles.
On the day, Hoffmann and Andrews earned singles sweeps. Williams and Kliger won twice before Kliger was subbed out, and Gaede and Aboubakare also had a standout day with a sweep.
"It's harder, because we don't have the depth that we had last year," Andrews said. "But as a team, I think we're progressing. We're staying strong in our doubles ... and we're gaining some confidence in our singles. I think that's really going to help us."
Gresh said he expected Thursday's match to be a bit closer. What he didn't know, however, was that two of Mira Costa's top players from last year, Joey Rotheram and Alec Zirkelbach, are being home-schooled this year.
"That does change the dynamic of my team," Mira Costa Coach Joe Ciasulli said. "We're decent. We just haven't turned the corner. When you play the schedule we play, you have to be more than decent."
Blake and Tanner Suard won twice at No. 2 doubles for the visitors, while Alex Gaal and Evan Han picked up singles wins.
CdM now looks toward the All-American Tournament, part of a challenging preseason that also includes last week's loss to Palos Verdes and Tuesday's showdown against Los Alamitos, ranked No. 2 in Orange County. CdM is No. 3.
"It's great," Andrews said. "The amount of tennis we're getting in is just going to propel our team. We didn't get the preseason tournaments, like the La Jolla tournament [rained out], that we got last year. This is just really good for team bonding, just getting more hours on the court and meshing as a team.
"I think we have a good shot [this weekend]. There are some tough teams. Uni's always a powerhouse. Our first match is going to be tough, but we should do well. You never know, because there's a bunch of tough guys from Northern California. There's a bunch of teams from everywhere going to this tournament."