CLAREMONT — Light rain, and some lightning to go along with it in the distance.
The weather Wednesday didn’t seem normal for Southern California in early June, and the beach kids from the Laguna Beach High boys’ tennis team didn’t have to worry about hot temperatures at The Claremont Club.
But it was top-seeded Cerritos that felt right at home in the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship match, defending its CIF title by routing the Breakers, 15-3.
The Dons are used to being in Claremont this time of year. It’s their third straight CIF title match appearance, while Laguna Beach hadn’t been in the title match since 1983.
“I just think our guys were a tad shocked on this one,” Breakers Coach Aaron Talarico said.
Cerritos (27-0) went up, 5-1, after the first go-round. Only No. 3 singles player Benito Romeo took a set in the first round for Laguna Beach (16-8). His 6-2 victory over Ray Yoon was perhaps Laguna Beach’s biggest highlight of the day.
At No. 1 singles, Laguna sophomore Jake Michaels was in an intense battle with Cerritos’ Pilki Min, closer than the 6-1 score would indicate. Michaels broke Min’s serve to open the set, but then Min rattled off six straight games.
Min wouldn’t lose another game in his final two sets, either. He said he and fellow singles players Ganesh Alagappan and Yoon, all sophomores, knew they had to step it up, especially when they saw the No. 6-seeded Breakers’ 13-5 victory over No. 2-seeded Cate in the semifinals.
“We were kind of surprised how badly Laguna beat Cate,” said Min, ranked No. 25 in Southern California in boys’ 16 singles. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to start working our butt off.’ Last week, we started working really hard, started conditioning. Everyone came out at night and hit a lot, so we could all be in our best condition and beat them. Our hard work just started showing on the courts right now.
“... Our singles lineup, we were kind of scared. We were kind of like, ‘Damn, dude, they must be really good right?’ But right when we started playing them, we started getting really pumped up. We knew we had to get two to three [sets] each, to put less pressure on our doubles. We just started pulling it off.”
Laguna Beach could only pull off three sets. Besides Romeo’s opening victory, the No. 2 doubles team of Christian O’Conner and Hutton McKenna won, 6-4, over Cerritos’ No. 3 team.
Then, in the final match still playing in the third round, Michaels edged Yoon, 7-6 (9-7).
“I think today was just a lot of mental lapses by us, not physical lapses,” Michaels said. “It’s disappointing.”
But the Breakers were able to look back on their season with pride. Laguna Beach won its second straight Orange Coast League title and followed it up with the magical run that ended Wednesday.
“I just want to give a lot of credit to Aaron [Talarico] and [assistant coach] Mike [Roguly],” Romeo said. “They really cared about this team.”