Corona del Mar High seniors Josh Kliger and Carson Williams played high-quality doubles Friday afternoon at CdM.
That’s nothing new for the Sea Kings’ team captains and No. 1 doubles team, but they definitely were playing well against David Ball and Vikram Chari of the Menlo School of Atherton.
In the end, it wasn’t quite enough. Ball and Chari rallied from a break of serve down to win the set 8-7 in a tiebreaker.
The set seemed indicative of the match. CdM battled, but Menlo was just too good.
The No. 2-seeded Knights blanked the Sea Kings, 8-0, in a quarterfinal of the 15th annual Corona del Mar All-American Invitational tournament.
CdM lost in the quarterfinals of the prestigious 16-team tournament it hosts for the eighth straight year. The Sea Kings now will play Bellarmine Prep of San Jose in a fifth-place semifinal on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at The Tennis Club.
Menlo, meanwhile, is a match away from making the tournament final for the fifth straight year. The Knights will play No. 3-seeded The Beacon School of New York in a semifinal at 11 a.m. Saturday at The Tennis Club. Top-seeded University, the defending champion, plays San Marino in the other semifinal.
The tournament championship match is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Palisades Tennis Club.
CdM is out of contention to make it there, but Coach Jamie Gresh liked what he saw from his squad Friday. The Sea King edged Rancho Bernardo on games, 46-41, in a first-round match Friday morning after each team won four sets.
“I feel like my guys are OK losing, as long as it’s to a better team,” Gresh said. “They understand, it’s part of the process. They got better today just by playing Menlo. I feel like they’re going to rebound [Saturday] and play well, or at least give it everything they have. There’s a lot of fight in this team. They’re constantly trying to prove themselves. With the departures that we had last year, I think other teams are thinking we’re a little bit weaker than we are. I think we’re a little bit better than we are [perceived], regardless of the departures that we had.”
Kliger had a standout day. He won the deciding singles set in the first-round win over Rancho Bernardo, 8-4 over Gao.
The Sea Kings won two doubles sets against Rancho Bernardo to take a 2-1 lead in the format, which features five singles sets and three doubles, with players allowed to play both. Williams and Kliger beat Erik Graber and Allen Gao, 8-3, while Samee Aboubakare and Tyler Gaede got past Sean Wheeler and Shane Stoike, 8-1.
Williams and Kliger are priming for a big run in the prestigious Ojai Tennis Tournament. Last year, they lost in the CIF Doubles division quarterfinals, a match away from playing at Libbey Park.
“We feel like we can take Ojai,” Kliger said. “We feel like we’re the best doubles team at that tournament, and we’re ready to go. That’s all that we’ve been looking forward to all year. After losing so many guys, it’s kind of discouraging. We lost five starters, but me and Carson just kept our eye on being the best doubles team.”
Kliger and Williams also won singles sets against Rancho Bernardo. Williams beat Wheeler, 8-1.
CdM’s Jonny Rhone rallied at the No. 5 singles spot before falling to Stoike. But the seven games that Rhone won were more than enough to put CdM over the top.
“The fight of the guys has been good,” Gresh said. “The intensity is real good. At a special tournament like this, where you have 16 great teams from all over the country, you see guys’ intensity and focus raise, and their tennis raises too. It’s such a special event to have, especially at home.”
Kliger and Ryan Andrews came the closest to winning in singles against Menlo. Andrews fell to Ball, 8-5. Kliger was up a break against Lane Leschly, but his leg began bothering him at 5-5 and he called for the trainer. Leschly rallied to take the set, 8-6.
Now the Sea Kings can finish no better than fifth place. And that’s their new goal. Last year, they finished sixth.
“I feel like everybody’s competing,” Kliger said. “Right now we’re trying to take fifth. I think we can definitely do that, if we play like we did today.”