CdM boys’ tennis tops Peninsula to make return trip to CIF finals

Corona del Mar's Jack Cross.
Corona del Mar’s Jack Cross, seen on April 19, swept in singles against Peninsula on Wednesday in a CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal match.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

An emotional Jack Cross closed out his final service game, turned to his teammates, and tossed his racquet a bit further than he might have expected to celebrate.

Unaware that his side had already clinched the match, Cross completed a singles sweep, one big part in Corona del Mar’s 11-7 win over Palos Verdes Peninsula on Wednesday in a CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal at home.

Cross grinded out a 6-4 set over Sean Ferguson, a Cal Poly-bound senior, to cap his unblemished day on the singles court.

“I actually thought it was 9-8, so I thought that was to clinch,” Cross said after the match. “Just knowing that the team is all behind me, and doing it for the team, that’s just what motivated me to get that.”

Corona del Mar (18-4) returns to the CIF finals on Friday for an 11:10 a.m. start at the Claremont Club, where the Sea Kings will run into an old nemesis in University (26-1). The Trojans, and their coach John Kessler, have stood in the way of CdM winning its 11th section title on three separate occasions, including last season. The other two also came in a back-to-back scenario in 2012 and 2013.

“This is my second final,” said Cross, one of seven starters returning to the championship stage for CdM. “I think our team is better this year. I think this is the team to do it with a bunch of boys that are going to be hungry to go out there. … They’re going to want to win, so I think this is the year.”

Corona del Mar is seeking its first CIF title since 2003. Top-seeded University won both meetings between the teams in the regular season by counts of 11-7.

Niels Hoffmann, a USC commit, won twice in singles, and Jack Knox also took a set, allowing CdM to claim six of the nine singles sets.

The pairings of Ansel Lee and Ivan Pflueger, as well as Jonathan Hinkel and Roger Geng, each won two sets in doubles for CdM.

“I feel like we played a high level of physical tennis today, and we played gritty at times where we needed it, and just kind of found a way to put points together on the doubles court together,” CdM coach Jamie Gresh said. “I thought singles was very good. I thought Jack Knox had a really good day, first set he lost to Ferguson 4-6, so that helps for game count.”

Chris Koeberle and Kyle Shigekawa swept in doubles for Bay League champion Peninsula (20-5), which also saw Ferguson win his first two sets before falling to Cross.

“We did beat them at the All-American Tournament, but it was a different format,” Peninsula coach Michael Hoeger said of facing CdM. “They’re just solid one through nine, and we’re starting freshmen at second and third doubles. I think they are gunslingers, and they can be on and off, and they have to learn to play with more consistency. They came through at the end, but by then, it was a little too late.”

CIF Southern Section Open Division Semifinals

Corona del Mar 11, Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula 7

Singles: Jack Knox (CdM) lost to Sean Ferguson (P) 4-6, lost to Takehiro Shuda (P) 1-6, def. Brandon Zhang (P) 6-4; Niels Hoffmann (CdM) 2-6, 6-0, 6-2; Jack Cross (CdM) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Doubles: Lincoln Lin/Tristan Pham (CdM) lost to Chris Koeberle/Kyle Shigekawa (P) 2-6, lost to Eddie Feuer/Colin Bringas (P) 3-6, def. Faust Lapuente/Kaito Kuba (P) 6-3; Ansel Lee/Ivan Pflueger (CdM) 2-6, 6-0, 6-4; Jonathan Hinkel/Roger Geng (CdM) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.