CORONA DEL MAR — Shane Korber was cramping up so bad Tuesday afternoon that he could barely stand up straight.
The Corona del Mar High senior almost limped around the court late in his set against Woodbridge sophomore Jake De Vries, a set that the Sea Kings desperately needed.
With De Vries serving at 5-5, Korber grabbed his left leg and fell to the ground.
He stayed there for a few minutes. Korber's father, Tim, an emergency room physician, worked on rubbing his son's leg muscles. Woodbridge Coach Ric Barth, watching Shane get up and continue to walk gingerly around the court, turned to CdM Coach Brian Ricker and asked, "Can he hurt himself?"
But the set continued. By the end of the dramatic tiebreaker, Shane Korber somehow made the Warriors feel the pain.
He came up with two winners at 5-5 in the tiebreaker. After the first, Korber let out a huge yell and raised both his arms. Then on match point, he hit a whistling cross-court passing shot when De Vries came in.
Korber stayed still, letting his teammates come congratulate him near the net. After his son's epic victory, Tim said he planned to take Shane to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital for an IV to get some fluids in his system.
It was only the end of the second singles round, but Ricker felt better about subbing out Korber for Zach Haber. Korber's gutsy performance gave the Sea Kings their 10th set, clinching what would be a big 11-7 Pacific Coast League victory.
The Sea Kings (9-1, 3-0 in league), ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll, will likely stay tied for first in league with University prior to the teams' showdown Thursday at CdM. Woodbridge (10-2, 1-2), ranked No. 2 in Division I, falls to third place.
Korber played a big role with his heroics.
"My [left] quad just cramped up," said the Georgetown-bound Korber, who improved to 24-0 this season. "It was locked in a straight position and it wouldn't bend at all. And it would alternate between legs; my gluts were cramping a little bit.
"It was an ugly win, because I didn't play my best. But it's definitely up there as one of my best wins ever. Fighting through conflict, that's when you feel the best coming off the court … Despite the fact that I was cramping, I finally loosened up in my upper body. I was hitting more freely and I connected on a couple, and that got me the 'W'."
Korber has been working extremely hard for the Sea Kings. On Monday, he trained with the UC Irvine men's tennis team before playing basketball with some friends and hitting some serves on his own.
He said that didn't really factor into the cramps.
"I didn't overdo it," Korber said. "I made sure not to overdo it. My legs didn't feel tired; they were just cramping up."
Still, his parents both said Monday's cardio might have been too much, and Ricker agreed. But it's difficult for him to fault his star for striving to get better. Korber also won another close set, also 7-5 in the tiebreaker, over Woodbridge senior Patrick Lipscomb in his first set. That match lasted about 90 minutes and in that tiebreaker, Korber also felt cramping coming on but played through it.
In the set against Lipscomb, Korber also grabbed his leg and briefly fell to the ground at 3-4 in the tiebreaker.
"That was gutsy," Ricker said. "He easily could have quit a couple of different times. He's improving so fast and he's working so hard, and I had a long talk with him last week about the negative of training too hard the day before a match. You need to give yourself a day off, and then he wanted to play basketball for two hours yesterday.
"You can't be mad at him. He just wants to get in better shape. He definitely gets an A-plus for trying to work hard and get better."
The Sea Kings' doubles teams also earned passing grades Tuesday. The No. 1 team of senior Carter Wheatley and junior Alex Murray swept, as did the No. 2 pairing of senior Ismaen Aboubakare and sophomore Alec Adamson.
Ricker said Aboubakare improved to a team-best 22-4 in doubles this year with several partners, including Haber and Paul Kacik.
He and Adamson have been clicking lately.
"Ismaen gets along with everyone and his game is easy for other kids to mesh with," Ricker said. "I don't know if that means he gets the bad end of the deal, because he always gets different partners, but it works out well for our team."
The No. 3 doubles team of Zach Williams and Kacik took two of three sets, and CdM freshman Carson Williams defeated De Vries, 6-0, in the final set of the day.
The Sea Kings play host to Irvine today before the big match with top-ranked University, the defending league and CIF Division I champion, on Thursday. They may need more heroics to stay with the Trojans, who won the National High School All-American Tournament earlier this month.
At least they know that in Korber, they have a No. 1 singles player who will give it all he's got.
"Everything right there just shows you why he's the leader of this team," Wheatley said. "If that match doesn't say it, I don't know what does."