CLAREMONT — The Corona del Mar High boys’ tennis team enjoyed its experience Friday at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match.
The Sea Kings showed up to The Claremont Club ready for battle, with blue-colored face paint under their eyes. When they and rival University did their pre-match routines, the Trojans’ contingent was noticeably bigger. So the Sea Kings recruited players from San Luis Obispo High, which was there playing in the Division 3 final, to add to their posse.
In terms of just the tennis, however, the Trojans showed that they continue to stand alone. Their special senior class was leaving with nothing less than its fourth straight Division 1 title.
University got it, beating CdM in the final for the second straight year. The final score was also the same, as Uni won eight of nine singles sets in a 13-5 victory.
That Uni senior class never lost a high school dual match. University’s streak now stands at 86 straight dual matches since losing to Thousand Oaks in the Division 1 final in 2009.
“I don’t know if you’re going to see a group like that come again,” University Coach John Kessler said. “It’s a big senior class, you have three All-Americans [UCLA-bound Gage Brymer, Yale-bound Tyler Lu and Pepperdine-bound Stefan Menichella]. I just don’t know if you’re going to see something like that again, see a high school team this deep and this consistent for four years. It’s not normal. It’s just not normal. It’s been an incredible ride with this group of seniors, just amazing.
“We’ve had two other very good groups at Uni. One won two [CIF titles], and the other one won three times. For this group, they made history today by winning four times.”
Corona del Mar (22-3) lost for the third time this season to heavily favored University (21-0). After playing the Trojans straight-up in two league losses, first-year CdM Coach Jamie Gresh elected to stack his doubles lineup Friday.
Gresh moved sophomore Chaz Downing and freshman Bjorn Hoffmann to doubles. Downing and freshman Pedro Fernandez won in the first round, and UC Davis-bound senior Alec Adamson took out Lu in a singles tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-3).
Lu served for the set two times, but Adamson forced the tiebreaker and prevailed. This brought CdM within 4-2 after the first round, but two doubles losses in the round already put the Sea Kings in a big hole.
“Basically we would have needed Alec to sweep and get seven of nine doubles, which is a brutal task,” Gresh said.
Uni also won the second round by the same margin to take an 8-4 lead, and then took the first two singles sets of the third round to clinch the match.
Brymer swept, 6-0, 6-2, 6-0, and Menichella swept, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. He came back against Adamson in the final set on court, taking the final six games for a 6-3 victory.
Lu won two of three. University’s No. 1 doubles team of junior Drew Dawson and sophomore Konrad Kozlowski also swept.
CdM’s No. 1 doubles team of Josh Kliger and Carson Williams won twice, including an impressive 6-4 victory over Uni’s Arash Hafezi and Eric Tseng. Kliger and Williams were the Sea Kings’ only individual or team to win more than once. The other winners were Hoffman and senior Andrew Nguyen, who earned one victory at No. 3 doubles.
Adamson said it was a privilege to play University, the top high school team in the country, for a third time this year. Gresh was also complimentary toward the Trojans.
“I think it was a fantastic season,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough task today, but we definitely got better just playing the match today, playing them for the third time. I feel like this was one of our better days, in terms of doubles, definitely.
“Having a [22-3] season we had a lot of ups, and losing to Uni’s not a down. It’s just a day that you get pushed, and they just came out better than us those three times. But it’s a great run.”
Brymer, the three-time Ojai CIF singles champion and two-time CIF Individuals champion, said he enjoyed playing CdM again in the title match. The two teams could meet again in the inaugural CIF Southern California Regional Tournament, which begins Tuesday.
Kessler said he was hearing that CdM could be the third-seeded team from the Southern Section in the 16-team tournament, which would mean that Uni and CdM would meet in a regional semifinal on Friday back at The Claremont Club.
But on this day, the Trojans got to enjoy making history. Their success has been staggering. University has won six of the last seven Division 1 titles. The Trojans have been in the CIF championship match eight straight years, and 12 of the last 15.
“It’s a really great feeling, especially for the seniors,” Brymer said. “Coming through four years and kind of growing up through high school, then closing out CIF like this? It feels great. It’s a really good feeling. It’s a little bit different this year because of the state [playoffs]. The edge is still there, I think. We have to stay focused … but it’s really great to accomplish one of our goals for the year.”