In some ways, the second day of the 15th annual Corona del Mar All-American Invitational tournament Saturday was tough for the host school.
Corona del Mar finished eighth after suffering a pair of losses at The Tennis Club Newport Beach. The Sea Kings fell to Bellarmine Prep of San Jose, 6-2, before losing to Los Alamitos, 5-3, in the seventh-place match.
Despite the tough finish, there were individual highlights for CdM. One was provided by CdM sophomore Bjorn Hoffmann, who won his only singles set of the weekend in the final one he played. He rallied to top Los Al's top player, Riley Smith, 6-4. The sophomores will likely face off again Tuesday, as CdM plays at Los Al in a key nonleague match.
Smith, an all-tournament selection, yelled at himself throughout the match. Hoffmann was his usual stoic self, and he got the job done.
"Just winning that last match gave him a big boost going into the rest of the season," CdM Coach Jamie Gresh said. "It's tough to come in here and go 0-4 on the weekend. To beat Riley, he played really well … I felt like his intensity and effort were a lot better against the Los Al guy than the three previous matches. I want him to get a little bit of emotion when things are going well and he's doing the right things."
Senior captain Carson Williams provided CdM's other singles win against Los Al. He beat George Cooper, 6-4, so the Sea Kings trailed just 3-2 headed into the doubles sets.
But the Sea Kings were short-handed in doubles without their other senior captain, Josh Kliger, who iced his left knee on the sidelines. The Griffins won two of the three doubles matches to complete the victory, and Smith got his revenge as he and partner Cooper topped Hoffmann and Ryan Andrews, 6-2. Samee Aboubakare and Tyler Gaede provided CdM's lone doubles win, topping Los Al freshmen Narra Shin and Ethan Kolsky, 6-3.
Aboubakare and Gaede were solid in doubles for the tournament, going 2-2. But overall the Sea Kings were hurt by the tournament rule that the No. 1 singles player also has to play No. 1 doubles. Hoffmann is unquestionably the Sea Kings' top singles player, but CdM wasn't allowed to play its top doubles team, Williams and Kliger, at the top spot.
"That's a reason that this tournament's kind of bad for us," Williams said. "Our lineup's kind of weird like that. Most teams, their No. 1 singles [player] plays No. 1 doubles as well."
In its fifth-place semifinal match Saturday morning, CdM fell to Bellarmine Prep of San Jose, 6-2.
The doubles sets were played first, and there the Bells grabbed a 3-0 advantage after winning two close sets. Daniel Berestov and Max Heerinckx topped Williams and Kliger, 6-4. CdM's Aboubakare and Gaede lost a close one at No. 3 doubles, 7-6 (10-8 in the tiebreaker), to the Bells' Ian McGowen and Coby del Rosario.
"It got intense and a little contentious," Bellarmine Coach Tyler Hansbrough said. "In the end, I was really impressed with the way [Gresh] handled the situation and calmed his guys down … CdM is a great team."
Hansbrough said that Kliger and Williams saved three match points before losing in doubles. They then got some revenge in singles, contributing the Sea Kings' only wins in the match. Kliger beat Heerinckx, 6-3, and Williams got past Berestov, 6-1.
The two matches early next week are big for CdM. The Sea Kings, ranked No. 3 in Orange County by the Register, play the aforementioned match at No. 2 Los Al on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, CdM opens Pacific Coast League play at home against Northwood, which is ranked No. 4 in the county.
"They just beat Fountain Valley, 9-9, on game count, and we beat Fountain Valley on Tuesday 12-6," Gresh said. "The thing I've been reminding my guys this year is that there's a lot of teams that are very closely bunched. In our league, there's so many matches that could go either way. We have to be ready to play all these different teams. They're going to be giving us a good run at it, based on us being CdM. As a coach, you never want your team going in overconfident and underprepared."