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NCAA TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS : UC Irvine Sweeps West Virginia in Singles

TIMES STAFF WRITER

On one court, Trevor Kronemann was making like a steamroller, flattening a West Virginia player who was ranked seven notches above him.

Five courts away, Coach Greg Patton was coaxing and soothing his freshman, Randy Ivey, who spent last year leading Woodbridge High School to a Southern Section tennis championship. Ivey spent Friday using his big serve for UC Irvine in a first-round victory in the NCAA championships at the Grand Champions resort.

Ivey was the only Irvine player to lose a set, but he pulled out his match by surviving a tiebreaker in the second set and winning the third as the Anteaters swept West Virginia in singles, 6-0, ending the match without playing doubles, and setting up a match with top-ranked and undefeated Tennessee at noon today.

There will be an extra edge to the Tennessee match for Kronemann, who will be facing the team coached by his first coach, Mike DePalmer, who gave him the first tennis lesson of his life when Kronemann was a 7-year-old living in Bradenton, Fla.

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“I have a lot of respect for him,” said Kronemann, who said he will work on his game with DePalmer for a month after he finishes playing at Irvine. “But when it comes down to it, we’re 1-0 (in the NCAA tournament) and they’re 0-0.”

Kronemann, ranked 20th, took the first set Friday from 13th-ranked Joby Foley of West Virginia, 6-2, but let the second get interesting before winning, 7-5.

But while Irvine’s other players played their matches, much of Patton’s attention was on Ivey.

Patton had spent days fretting over who to play at No. 6--Ivey or Mike Saunders, a senior and a team leader who has won the past two Big West Conference titles at No. 6.

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He chose Ivey, in part because of the match-up with West Virginia’s Mark Booras. Ivey lost the first set, 3-6, and as the match developed, it seemed as if his match might be a critical one in deciding whether Irvine would be forced to begin doubles play.

Booras’ big serve forced Ivey to back off early in the match. But, after forcing a third set, Ivey won by breaking Booras for a 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 victory.

“I think Randy came through with flying colors,” Patton said.

The No. 6 match seemed so critical, but there was irony in the way it ended. Ivey was threatening to break in the 10th game of the third set when a cheer went up two courts away, where Irvine’s Mike Roberts had just beaten Patric Westoo, 6-3, 6-3, giving Irvine its fifth singles victory, all it needed to clinch.

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Ivey, his contribution no longer even necessary, hung in to break Booras and win.

“After it was over, it just released a lot of tension,” Ivey said. “I could just play for fun instead of all that pressure.”

Irvine’s other victories were at No. 2, where 33rd-ranked Richard Lubner beat 35th-ranked Paul Mancini, 6-3, 6-1; No. 3, where Shige Kanroji defeated Ron Mercer, 6-3, 6-2, and No. 5, where Carsten Hoffman defeated Brad Kelly, 6-4, 6-2.

“That’s one of the best matches we’ve played this year,” Patton said. “The Tank (Kronemann) leads the force, and you feel it all the way down at the No. 6 court. Once you know he’s doing well, it affects all these guys.”

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