Boys' Tennis: CdM stays hot in CIF

MANHATTAN BEACH — With record-breaking heat in parts of Southern California on Monday, the place to be was by the beach.

That's where the Corona del Mar High boys' tennis team found itself. In the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, the Sea Kings played at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, a campus just blocks from the beach.

CdM prevailed, 13-5. And, while cooling is expected throughout the week on the thermometer, the Sea Kings' semifinal matchup also promises to be hotly contested.

No. 2-seeded CdM (21-2) will play host to No. 3 Harvard-Westlake on Wednesday. The Wolverines beat Los Alamitos, 12-6, in another quarterfinal match.

It's the third straight year CdM and Harvard-Westlake have met in the playoffs. The Wolverines eliminated the Sea Kings in the quarterfinals in 2011, while CdM returned the favor in last year's semifinals. Both of those matches were at Harvard-Westlake's home courts at Los Angeles Valley College.

It would be fair to say there's no love lost between the programs.

"Both teams really get fired up," CdM senior captain Alec Adamson said. "When we played them in the La Jolla tournament earlier this year, things got kind of a little bit rowdy when we were playing doubles. They're a good team, so it will be tough [Wednesday]."

Adamson will certainly help the Sea Kings. After playing a USTA national open tournament match earlier Monday in Lakewood, he came back to sweep in singles at Mira Costa (19-4). He topped sophomore Evan Han, 6-1, freshman Alex Gaal, 6-0, and freshman Joey Rotheram, 6-4.

Adamson is still undefeated in the playoffs. So is No. 2 singles player Bjorn Hoffmann. The freshman played through sickness to record two critical wins Monday, topping Gaal, 7-5, and Rotheram, 6-4.

CdM's No. 1 doubles team of juniors Josh Kliger and Carson Williams also is undefeated in the postseason. They also swept, ending their day with a tiebreaker victory over Mira Costa's No. 3 team of Zak Vand and Jason Wu.

"Carson and Josh have been outstanding," CdM Coach Jamie Gresh said. "That Ojai tournament really made a huge impact on them. Their game has just risen, based on the experience of making the quarters there and seeing the level of high school tennis and college tennis at that event."

There was no shortage of close sets in Monday's match; six of them went to 7-5 or 7-6. A tiebreaker set went in the Mustangs' favor in the first round, when Rotheram saved two set points to top CdM's Ryan Andrews, 7-6 (9-7).

That brought Mira Costa within 4-2 after the round. But CdM won five of six sets in the second round to seize control.

"It was close, it was competitive," Mira Costa Coach Joe Ciasulli said. "They're simply better, [but] I am very, very pleased with how we competed. We didn't go quietly into the night."

Seniors Paul Kacik and Andrew Nguyen won twice at No. 2 doubles for CdM. And the No. 3 doubles team of junior Samee Aboubakare and freshman Pedro Fernandez swept for the Sea Kings.

"I think we definitely had an improvement from our last match against Loyola to this match," Adamson said. "I thought our doubles and singles came out a lot stronger. We definitely picked up the intensity, because they're a good team and they play well. I definitely think our team's in a good place going forward."

Gresh said he expects to have sophomore Chaz Downing back for Wednesday's match. Downing missed the last two matches for CdM due to playing at a USTA national open tournament in Surprise, Ariz. On Monday, he took third place in the tournament.

Gresh, in his first year as head coach, has still become a bit familiar with the rivalry against Harvard-Westlake.

"I've got some guys playing some good tennis at crucial moments, and that's what it's going to take against Harvard-Westlake," Gresh said. "Both teams are very deep. It's just going to come down to who executes well on the big points, and who keeps their composure the best."

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