All-American Invitational again stacked

Some of the top high school boys' tennis teams in the country will converge on Newport Beach this weekend, like they always do on a weekend in March.

The 15th annual Corona del Mar All-American Invitational boys' tennis tournament begins Friday at The Tennis Club Newport Beach and Corona del Mar High, promising elite competition like always.

CdM begins its tournament at 8:30 a.m. Friday at The Tennis Club, against Rancho Bernardo High of San Diego.

"There will be more depth this year, but not as many superstars," said All-American Tournament director Tim Mang, the former longtime CdM coach. "The middle of the pack will be very competitive, and the top four, instead of the top two."

University High and the Menlo School of Atherton have dominated the tournament in recent years, combining to win every title since 2009. University defeated Menlo, 6-3, in the championship match last year.

The two schools are again the top two seeds, but seeds Nos. 3 and 4 are not slouches. Third-seeded The Beacon School from New York returns after finishing fifth in the tournament last year.

"They're very good this year," Mang said. "They have everybody back from last year. They gave Uni a tough time last year. Uni swept them, but they were really close sets."

The fourth-seeded team is Gulliver Prep School, from Miami.

"They came in third the last time they were here, and they're obviously always very good," Mang said. "This year, [Gulliver Prep coach Kelly Mulligan] has got the two best players in the tournament."

They are University of Florida-bound senior Chase Perez-Blanco and Vanderbilt-bound senior Baker Newman. Perez-Blanco is ranked No. 50 in the country in the boys' 18s, and Newman is ranked No. 168.

University High is a bit down this year, after graduating three all-tournament team selections from last year in Gage Brymer, Tyler Lu and Stefan Menichella. Senior Drew Dawson, another of last year's all-tournament team selections, is headed to Notre Dame and does remain for the Trojans. But the semifinals could be very intriguing.

"There may be some surprises," Mang said of the tournament semifinals, which are scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at The Tennis Club. The tournament championship match and third-place match are scheduled for 3 p.m. at Palisades Tennis Club.

There are two first-time participants in the 16-team field, Phillips Academy Andover from Massachusetts and Greenhill School from Addison, Texas. Phillips Academy has notable alumni like Humphrey Bogart and Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush. Mang said that Greenhill is the first school from Texas to participate in the All-American tournament.

"The [Greenhill] coach said his team is very strong," Mang said. "But he hasn't run into any Southern California teams yet."

One of the Southern California teams is CdM, which is a three-time tournament champion but has lost in the quarterfinals for seven straight years. The Sea Kings finished sixth last year. Before starting the tournament, though, the Sea Kings have a tough nonleague match at home Thursday against Mira Costa. It's a rematch of last year's CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals, a match which was won by CdM 13-5.

Should the Sea Kings beat Rancho Bernardo in the tournament opener, they'd tangle with Menlo at 1 p.m. Friday at CdM.

"I like our schedule, with the match [Thursday] then two tournament days coming up," CdM Coach Jamie Gresh said. "I feel like we've really hit our stride going into the season. Rancho Bernardo first round, that's a good match, and then we're trying to survive to get a look at Menlo, who is one of the top teams. Obviously, a tough draw, but the whole goal is to get as many good quality matches [as you can], to get you ready for some of the big CIF matches."

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