Two big doubles wins in the first round provided momentum Friday afternoon, and the singles play was strong all match long.
The Corona del Mar High boys' tennis team earned a balanced 13-5 victory over Dos Pueblos in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 second-round playoff match at CdM.
CdM swept in singles for the third time in four matches. Sophomore Bjorn Hoffmann breezed through his sets, 6-2, 6-0, 6-0, and senior captain Carson Williams also swept, 6-0, 6-0, 6-4. In Williams' last set, he came back from a 4-1 deficit against Dos Pueblos No. 1 player Patrick Corpuz.
Junior Ryan Andrews also won twice in singles before senior Shane Silver subbed in for a victory.
The Sea Kings (17-4) will need continued strong play in the next round, against an opponent they know all too well. CdM will play on the road against No. 3-seed Harvard-Westlake in a Division 1 quarterfinal match on Monday, most likely at Los Angeles Valley College. Harvard-Westlake defeated Palos Verdes Peninsula, 14-4, in another second-round match.
It will be the fourth year in a row the Sea Kings have met the rival Wolverines in the playoffs. CdM lost to Harvard-Westlake in a Division 1 quarterfinal in 2011, before beating the Wolverines in the semifinals each of the last two seasons.
Monday's match will probably be tight. The Sea Kings and Wolverines share a common opponent in No. 2-seeded Palos Verdes, and each team fell, 10-8. Harvard-Westlake and CdM finished No. 3 and No. 4 in the final Division 1 poll. But CdM dropped to the No. 6 seed position because it couldn't be on the same side of the draw as its Pacific Coast League rival, top-seeded University. CIF rules state that the top two teams from each league must be in opposite halves of the draw.
Williams, a four-year varsity starter, is well aware of the history between the two programs.
"[We] lost the first year and won the next two," Williams said. "Now we play them this year. They want us just as badly as we want them. That's probably — that is — our biggest rivalry. It's back and forth for the most part, and we get pretty into it when we play each other."
The doubles teams were pretty into it against Dos Pueblos (17-4). The Chargers came into the match in the midst of a historic season. They earned a share of the Channel League title for the first time since 1975.
But there were three close doubles sets in the first round, and they all went CdM's way. First, CdM sophomores Oliver Kim and Ari Coskinas defeated Miles Baldwin and Andrew Tufenkian, 6-3, at No. 3 doubles. Then Tyler Gaede and Samee Aboubakare outlasted Mason Casady and Joshua Wang, 7-6 (7-5), at No. 2 doubles. It was just the third doubles loss all season for Casady and Wang.
Finally, at No. 1 doubles, CdM juniors Jonny Rhone and Dan LaBruna beat Alex Yang and Greg Steigerwald, 7-6 (7-5). That gave CdM a commanding 6-0 sets lead after the first round. The Sea Kings clinched the match midway through the second round.
Kim and Coskinas won twice at No. 3 doubles for the Sea Kings, who know the task that lies ahead of them. Harvard-Westlake's top singles player, junior Michael Genender, is ranked No. 1 in Southern California in the 18s and made the CIF singles finals at the recent Ojai Tennis Tournament. And Harvard-Westlake's doubles team of Samuel Hummel and Max Rothman made the semifinals at "The Ojai."
"[Harvard-Westlake] lost a lot of players [from last year], and we lost a lot of players," Williams said. "It's going to be close. Honestly, I think whoever comes out [strong] that day will be the victor.
"I think we've stayed mentally strong this year, especially in the close matches. The only close match we've lost was Palos Verdes. I think as long as we're mentally strong against Harvard-Westlake, we can win. We have to stay strong, but we definitely have the players to do it."
CdM Coach Jamie Gresh's squad has had a challenging season, including the loss of senior doubles player Josh Kliger to a knee injury. But the Sea Kings are definitely battle tested.
"The margins are so thin when you play very good teams," Gresh said. "We've played a tough schedule ... We're prepared. We've played so much tennis to this point. This will be our 22nd match of the season coming up. We're definitely ready and everyone's healthy, so we're good to go."