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CdM doubles tandem finishes runner-up at CIF Individuals boys’ tennis tournament

Niels Hoffmann of Corona del Mar reacts to winning a long rally at the net with doubles partner Jack Cross.
Niels Hoffmann of Corona del Mar reacts to winning a long rally at the net with doubles partner Jack Cross during the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Individuals tournament against Calabasas at the Whittier Narrows Tennis Center on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Time is on the side of Corona del Mar High sophomores Niels Hoffmann and Jack Cross.

It stings now, but someday soon they will be able to look back at their remarkable run at the CIF Southern Section Individuals boys’ tennis tournament.

Hoffmann and Cross became the first CdM doubles team since Ryan Peyton and Shane Korber in 2010 to advance to the tournament title match.

They just ran into a University team on Thursday afternoon that was playing a bit better.

“Too good, too good,” Hoffmann said after the Trojans’ SangHyuk Im and Konrad Walter-Wu earned a 6-3, 6-4 victory at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center.

Corona del Mar's Niels Hoffmann, left, reacts to the loss of close point with doubles partner Jack Cross on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Hoffmann and Cross, clearly eager to exit the venue after the loss, had precious little to say.

“They just played better at times,” Cross said. “It was a pretty good run, we just came up a little bit short.”

Im, a sophomore, and Walter-Wu, a senior, stepped up at the end of each set. Cross’ serve was broken at 3-4 in the first set, giving University a chance to serve it out.

CdM subsequently earned three break points on Walter-Wu’s serve, but was unable to capitalize.

“Their serving accuracy was very good, so their net guy got a lot of first volleys,” CdM coach Jamie Gresh said. “We couldn’t get into as many crosscourt rallies, and even when we did, their guy was making more moves at the net. I thought we played good, and I thought Uni played great, and that’s the difference in a title match. It’s not the match that Niels and Jack wanted, but University just stepped up and played better.”

The second set was even as late as 4-4, but Hoffmann’s 30-15 advantage on his serve quickly turned into a break point on a double fault. A shot sailed wide, and University was able to serve out the match.

University’s duo, which had upset top-seeded Ojai doubles winners Advik Mareeda and Warren Pham of Valencia of Placentia 7-5, 7-6, in the CIF Individuals semifinals earlier Thursday, was complimentary of CdM after the match. Im said that Hoffmann and Cross are his two best friends in tennis.

Im and Walter-Wu played doubles together for most of the year, helping the Trojans win the CIF Southern Section Open Division final against the Sea Kings.

“I thought it was awesome,” Im said of playing CdM in the team finals and also Thursday’s match. “CdM’s such a young team compared to Uni. We have a lot of seniors, whereas CdM is mostly sophomores and juniors. I thought it was really incredible that they got to the final. And the fact that Niels and Jack got to this final, even though they’re both sophomores, I thought that was really inspiring as well.”

Jack Cross of Corona del Mar hits a forehand against Calabasas on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Hoffmann and Cross, seeded No. 3, also beat No. 2-seeded Derek Shiffer and Darius Tamaddon of Calabasas 6-1, 6-2 in a semifinal match earlier Thursday. That helped Hoffmann join his older brother Bjorn, who won the CIF Individuals singles title in 2016, as a finalist at the prestigious tournament.

The Sea Kings’ top two singles players were leaders all year for CdM, the Surf League champion which had a resurgence in 2022.

“I feel like this kind of rejuvenated me and the program a little bit,” said Gresh, in his 10th year in charge. “The last time we had a really successful year was 2016, winning the regionals and then we were in the [Division 1] semis that year. We had good depth this year, and the team kind of clicked at the right moment.

“Niels and Jack are great leaders and love the team dynamic. Especially in big matches, they came up huge … and bring a lot of heart and passion to it.”

Niels Hoffmann of Corona del Mar steps into a volley for a point at the net with doubles partner Jack Cross on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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