Uni looking to finally reach top of the mountain

It started with the 2006 season, when the University High School girls' tennis team reached the first round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

Since then, Uni Coach John Kessler's girls have climbed the proverbial ladder — rung by rung — to a potential CIF championship.

In 2007, the Trojans reached the second round; in 2008 and 2009 they reached the quarterfinals; in 2010 they reached the semifinals and last year they reached the CIF Division I championship match.

They lost a close one, 10-8, to Dana Hills in the title match, but at least they got there.

Now, the bar has been raised. If the trend continues, Uni should at least reach the CIF final and maybe even win it. Kessler, though, warns that it won't be easy.

"That's the goal every year," said Kessler, who also coaches the boys' team at Uni. "The only problem with that is we've lost a couple key people and our main competition — Dana Hills and Campbell Hall — I think both got better. Both added key girls."

Uni lost Kyra Scott, the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player last year, as well as Caroline Kolln and Nassim Radmehr, who were both first-team PCL selections.

"Kyra was consistent over the four years," Kessler said. "She was the one everybody looked to, so yes, losing her was definitely a big blow. She was singles, she was doubles and she stepped up in big matches for us."

Don't feel sorry for Kessler, though.

Uni has a new No. 1 in Kaiulani Boyer, a senior transfer from Palm Desert.  Other newcomers are sophomore Celine Gruaz and freshman Alyssa Rudin.

"I think (Boyer) is actually a better player than (Scott); she's higher ranked, she's a top player and she will help us a lot," Kessler said. "She's fighting some injuries but she's a top player, a nationally ranked player."

Kessler also said that Gruaz has a lot of potential if she can be consistent, and Rudin will be able to make an impact immediately despite her young age.

"That's three girls who can step right into the starting lineup and help us," Kessler said.

Uni has quality players returning from last year's team, including Yuki Asami, who is the No. 2 singles player, and Danielle Pham and Shannon Theisen, who make up a formidable doubles team. Kyla Scott, Kyra's younger sister, and Shayna Becker also will contribute and get turns as the No. 3 singles player.

Uni went 22-3 last season, including 10-0 in winning the PCL. The PCL title is the Trojans' for the taking again this year, with Corona del Mar, Northwood and Woodbridge expected to battle it out for second place.

Dana Hills, Campbell Hall and possibly Peninsula seem to be the biggest obstacles in Uni's quest for its first CIF girls title. But Uni doesn't have to look far to follow the example of a CIF champion.

Uni's boys' team has reached the CIF final match seven consecutive years, winning five of them, including the past three. The boys play their season during the spring, so the girls take advantage of the opportunity to get an up-close look.

"The last seven years the girls have always gone to the boys finals," Kessler said. "The girls go to practice before the boys' match and the girls go to the warm-up site. They've been a part of that, so yeah, I think they do feed off that.

"And I also think because of the boys success, we've been getting more quality girls over the last five years as well. I do think the programs feed off each other. After the girls season, the boys and girls train together in the offseason program. I try to keep it as one big program."

Make that, one big successful program.

Uni is 1-0 so far this season, with a victory over Tesoro earlier in the week. The Trojans' next match is Tuesday against Los Alamitos, and they face their biggest challenge early in the season when they play Campbell Hall on Sept. 18. The PCL season starts Sept. 20, when Uni plays at Corona del Mar.


Twitter: @TheDailyPilot

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World