CdM duo falls in semis

SEAL BEACH — As two tall players with matching black headbands and Mohawk haircuts, Jack Felich and Austin Rapp of Palm Desert High were hard to miss Saturday.

Their play still stood out more at Seal Beach Tennis Center. Nobody could stop the No. 3-seeded team in doubles at the CIF Southern Section Individuals.

Felich and Rapp beat Corona del Mar's Alex Murray and Henry Gordon, 6-3, 6-4, in a doubles semifinal. They then came back to upset top-seeded Drew Dawson and Ryo Shimizu of University, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, in the championship match.

Felich and Rapp denied Dawson his second CIF Individuals doubles title; last year he won it with Kona Luu. But on Saturday, the Palm Desert duo continually had answers.

"Sometimes you just lose to very good teams," CdM Coach Brian Ricker said. "They were very good at the net. They were both big kids, played right on top of the net and they crossed really well. It was hard to go down the alley on them, and Alex tried lobbing them a little bit there. They tried everything they could, but they were just tough at the net ... I didn't think that our kids played poorly, but they just played better."

The semifinal match was close throughout, but Murray and Gordon held a 3-1 lead in the first set after breaking Rapp's serve and a hold by Gordon.

But Felich and Rapp rallied to take the next five games. Included in the barrage was a Rapp service game that went to six deuces, as he fought off five break points.

"They were on top of their game today, and we played kind of sloppy at some points," Murray said. "They pulled it together. They were the better team today, so they deserved that victory."

The second set was on serve until 4-4, when Murray's serve was broken. Felich was then able to serve out the match, fighting off a break point in the process.

CdM converted just one of nine break points for the match.

"They served really well," Gordon said. "They were getting their first serves in, and we weren't. I thought that was pretty much the difference in the match. They just had a lot more opportunities than we did, and at the end they just converted big serves."

Gordon and Rapp typically play doubles together in United States Tennis Assn. tournaments. They were the top-seeded boys' 16s doubles team at this week's Esme Pearson Memorial Junior Open in San Diego, but had to default due to CIF Individuals. Gordon, the No. 2 seed in 16s singles, still traveled down to San Diego on Saturday afternoon to continue singles play in the tournament.

Felich, a senior, was more of an unknown quantity to Ricker, but he also played big.

"He should have been their weaker link, being their doubles kid, an unranked kid, but he was tough," Ricker said. "He had a big serve, he ripped his ground strokes, and when he could get up to the net he was a brute up there. He really wasn't a weak link."

Felich said he and Rapp caught fire at the right time. At CIF Individuals, they won their round of 16, quarterfinal and championship matches all in three sets.

"We're peaking right now," Felich said after the semifinal victory over CdM. "[Friday] we started off slow, and it's been a while since we've played a competitive match. [Friday] we got warmed up, and [Saturday] we just came out and we played great. We were both active at the net, and our volleys were a lot better than they were [Friday]. It was just meant to be."

It wasn't meant to be for Murray and Gordon. Murray said the run to the CIF Individuals semis was still more than he could have expected.

"I still would have liked to have gotten to the finals, got that plaque, but you can't always get what you want," he said. "I'm happy with what we did; it was a good run. Next up, CIF team finals [Wednesday at The Claremont Club against University]."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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