The dream team that Corona del Mar boys' tennis Coach Tim Mang hoped to field this year will now exist only in Mang's dreams.
Three weeks ago Mang learned that senior Boris Turkich, an exchange student from Croatia who went 49-2 last year in singles play, was leaving Corona del Mar a semester early to play tennis for Marymount College.
A week later, Mang learned sophomore Taylor Dent, last year's Southern Section individual singles champion, would probably not be available to him for more than a few matches.
"We've gone from having the No. 1 team in the country to the second- or third-best team in the county," Mang said. "It would have been an incredible team. We were looking pretty good."
Corona del Mar would have strongly challenged defending Southern Section Division I champion Woodbridge for the Sea View League championship and the Division I title. The Sea Kings still have their No. 1 singles player from 1995, John Cappello, and three talented transfers.
But now Mang said he is considering keeping his team out of Division I. Corona del Mar, which has only 784 students, is currently in Division IV, but can choose to move up.
Neither Turkich nor Dent could be reached for comment Monday.
Turkich was persuaded to attend Marymount, a private community college in Rancho Palos Verdes, by former pro player Jim Pugh, Marymount's coach. Mang said Turkich will finish his high school education at Marymount and practice daily with a host of former professional players.
Turkich, who was being recruited by San Diego, UC Irvine and Boise State, is playing No. 3 singles at Marymount.
"We were both upset," Mang said. "I told him the team was really counting on him, but he felt this was his opportunity and everything was right there for him."
Dent, who has been the nation's top-ranked player in the boys' 14 and 16 age divisions, has been traveling and taking independent study since September. He will be competing in the Easter Bowl, French Open and Italian Open junior tournaments this spring and will miss almost all of Corona del Mar's matches.
Mang said he has asked the Corona del Mar administration and the Newport Beach School district to petition the Southern Section for a waiver so Dent could play a few regular season and playoff matches.
"Kids in independent study have played before, but we have to prove hardship," Mang said. "The hardship here is that Taylor is traveling to tennis tournaments and is unable to attend classes."
But even if Dent's eligibility is approved by the Southern Section, Mang knows he won't have his best player for more than a handful of matches and he won't have him for later rounds of the playoffs.
"It's tough when they're that good," Mang said. "At least I had him for a year."
Mang is not the only coach to lose his best players because they were too talented. Two years ago, Sunny Hills Coach Steve White lost Kevin Kim and Joseph Gilbert before they graduated. Kim left for Palmer Tennis Academy in Florida after his sophomore season. Gilbert took independent study his senior year so he could concentrate on improving his game and playing in satellite tournaments.