CdM battles back

IRVINE — Shane Korber was down 4-1 in his final set of the day.

The No. 2 doubles team of Ismaen Aboubakare and Alec Adamson was down 3-0. The No. 3 doubles team of Zach Williams and Carson Williams was down 5-1.

Lose all three sets, and the Corona del Mar High boys' tennis team would also lose Wednesday's key Pacific Coast League match at Woodbridge High.

As it turned out, the Sea Kings had the Warriors right where they wanted them. Comebacks by Korber, as well as Aboubakare and Adamson, helped the Sea Kings seal the 10-8 victory that clinches second place in league for CdM.

"We were down in all those sets and everyone came back and played strong," CdM Coach Brian Ricker said. "They showed some good mental toughness. That's the advantage of us having a tough league; this will be nothing new in the playoffs."

Last week's 11-7 victory over Woodbridge could have been considered a minor upset as the Warriors were ranked No. 2 in CIF and the Sea Kings No. 5. This week the rankings flip-flopped, giving CdM the No. 2 ranking. But the second meeting wasn't easy either, although the Sea Kings (12-2, 6-1 in league) had opened up a slim 7-5 lead after two rounds against Woodbridge (12-3, 4-3).

Korber battled in his final set of the day against Woodbridge senior Patrick Lipscomb, who he had beaten in a tiebreaker in the first meeting. This time, Lipscomb jumped out to a 4-1 lead.

"Right off the bat he came out really strong," said Korber, who swept his three singles sets for CdM's only three singles wins. "I didn't even feel like I was playing that bad, but he brought it early on. I kind of just weathered the storm and started trying to mix it up, just to try to get him out of his rhythm."

The Georgetown-bound Korber saved a set point serving at 4-5 and finally put the set away, 7-5, after Lipscomb saved four set points himself.

At that point CdM had nine sets and was up by enough games to clinch the match, but Aboubakare and Adamson also came back for a 7-5 victory over Woodbridge's No. 1 team of James Lafond and Colby Trinh. Aboubakare and Adamson won two of three sets on the day.

So did Zach and Carson Williams, who battled back to a tiebreaker in their third set before losing. Carson Williams has been playing at No. 2 singles but Ricker had to switch things up as Zach Williams' usual partner, sophomore Paul Kacik, broke his right wrist in a skateboarding accident Friday.

"Losing Paul was big," Ricker said. "He played great against Uni. We had a young sophomore lefty coming on. Just when I had said our lineup was gelling perfectly…"

Ricker said he thought that was an April Fool's joke at first when he heard the news. His No. 1 doubles team of senior Carter Wheatley and junior Alex Murray continues to be no laughing matter for opponents.

Wheatley and Murray swept their sets against Woodbridge, just as they did in the first matchup. The scores were 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1.

"We just tried to stick to our game plan," Wheatley said. "We have a pretty simple game plan, just try to hold serve every time and get one break. We're both really active at the net and we just try to take the time away. Don't give them a chance to do anything."

Woodbridge is a more emotional team. Wheatley said he usually tries to keep even-keel but Murray can get emotional with the best of them.

"I get emotional too," Murray said. "I usually play better when I'm emotional, because it keeps my energy level up. Unless I get too emotional, and then it goes down the drain."

That wasn't happening Wednesday. CdM also benefitted from the steady play of senior Joel Ishii at No. 3 singles. Ishii was swept but got at least two games in each sets, helping the Sea Kings if the match went to games.

The Sea Kings have been steadily getting better as the season progresses. Ricker said if they can win at Palos Verdes (No. 3 in Division I) on April 19, they should lock up the No. 2 seed in CIF.

The other big match remaining is a rematch at rival University on April 26.

"All four years, we've never been ranked as high as No. 2 in CIF," Korber said. "All this hard work over four years is finally coming to fruition. I think this year, a little over halfway through the season, we're really maturing as a team. We have a bunch of hard-fought victories, and it's great experience we're going to have under our belt going into the playoffs."

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