VALLEY GLEN — Carson Williams ended his sparkling four-year varsity career at Corona del Mar High playing some spectacular tennis.
The senior captain put it all on the line Monday afternoon at Los Angeles Valley College. The opponent was Harvard-Westlake junior Michael Genender, and Williams and Genender were trading shot for shot. Genender served for the set at 5-4, but Williams broke serve, and they kept scrapping.
The two players had faced off on the same court two years ago, when Williams topped the then-freshman in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match. But Genender, a CIF singles division finalist at the Ojai Tennis Tournament this spring, has worked his way up to No. 1 in Southern California in the boys' 18s.
Genender won the last two games of the set Monday and pulled out the victory. This year, he and the Wolverines are just a little bit better.
No. 3-seeded Harvard-Westlake won eight of nine doubles sets and posted a 12-6 victory in the Division 1 quarterfinal match, ending Corona del Mar's season. The Wolverines will play No. 2-seeded Palos Verdes, a 13-5 winner over Fountain Valley, in the semifinals on Wednesday.
CdM (17-5) had defeated Harvard-Westlake (16-3) in the semifinals each of the last two years. This time, the Wolverines had the answers with Genender in singles and the doubles team of seniors Sam Hummel and Max Rothman, who made the semifinals at Ojai. Each swept.
"We would have liked to have gotten a few more in singles," Harvard-Westlake Coach Chris Simpson said. "But Carson is experienced and crafty, [Ryan Andrews] is a workhorse and [Bjorn] Hoffmann is a really good caliber player. At this level, this stage of competition, you're going to come across teams that have good singles and should have good doubles. We obviously have an advantage.
"The way I looked at it, we started the match 3-0 up in doubles with Hummell and Rothman, and we started with Michael 3-0 up. Obviously, no disrespect to Hoffmann … but that's just the way I looked at it. Where was I going to pick up another four [sets]? I predicted around 12-6 [as a final score]."
The Wolverines actually got six more sets. The doubles team of Jaird Meyer and Jason Vranek also swept, while Parker Chusid and Jed Kronenberg won two of three. Adam Sraberg won once in singles.
CdM was tied 3-3 after the first round. Hoffmann beat Sraberg, while Williams topped George Noonan. In doubles, the Sea Kings' Tyler Gaede and Samee Aboubakare came up with a 6-4 victory over Chusid and Kronenberg.
Hoffmann and Williams won twice in singles, and Andrews won once. But there would be no more doubles wins for CdM. Harvard-Westlake went ahead 7-5 after two rounds and quickly clinched the match in the third.
Though the match was decided, that didn't stop Genender and Williams from putting on a show. Both clearly remembered the set from two years ago, which Williams won after Genender retired while down 5-3.
"It was a disaster for me," Genender recalled after Monday's match. "I got sick during the match, and he was winning. I was really overwhelmed as a freshman playing in the semifinals. I think I had a little déjà vu there [today], I got a little nervous playing him again. I definitely was thinking about it. Same court, too."
CdM won, 12-6, on that day. This time, Genender hung in there and things ended up better for the hosts. But CdM's players also were able to walk off the courts with their collective heads held high.
"I think [Williams' last set] shows some of the spirit and some of the fight that I want from our guys that represent CdM tennis," CdM Coach Jamie Gresh said. "I'm most proud of that; we didn't go quietly. Harvard-Westlake was just too good today. Their doubles lineup was too strong. My hat's off to them, because they deserved to win and just were that much tougher.
"I think we really maxed our potential. We lost to Uni twice, Palos Verdes and Harvard-Westlake, and [Division 2 powerhouse] Palm Desert. We didn't lose to any bad teams, you know? I feel like we had a really successful year. I'm very proud of the guys, and the time and effort they put in. Obviously, you want to make it as far as you can, but the quarters were it for us this year. No regrets."
Williams certainly didn't finish with any. He said he has been battling a knee injury all season and it was at its worst on Monday, yet he battled through it.
"We definitely surprised people," Williams said. "I think we really showed up this year. We did the best we could."
Though the team season is over, Hoffmann, who finished second in the Pacific Coast League in singles, will play at CIF Individuals on May 29.