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University, JSerra and Foothill claim CIF-SS boys tennis championships – Orange County Register

The Foothill boys tennis team won its first CIF-SS championship by defeating Flintridge Prep 10-8 in the Division 2 finals at the University of Redlands on Friday. (Photo by Dan Albano, Orange County Register/SCNG

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REDLANDS – University and Corona del Mar renewed their boys’ tennis rivalry on Friday by competing against each other in the CIF-SS Open Division finals for the third straight season.

However, the Trojans’ racquets played the same championship song.

Backed by three freshmen starting in singles and a strong doubles lineup, University won its third straight title with an 11-7 win over the University of Redlands Jim Verdieck Tennis Center.

“You guys just amaze me,” college coach John Kessler told his team afterward. “It’s crazy. We’ll find a way.”

In claiming its 12th section title under Kessler, University (23-1) used a mix of experience and youthful talent to defeat the reigning Ojai team champion, featuring the reigning Ojai singles champion in Niels Hoffmann.

The USC-bound senior won his singles matches 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, but the University offered some resistance in the singles match. Freshman Rishvanth Krishna defeated Cal Poly SLO-bound Jack Cross 6-2 in the second round.

“Cool as a cucumber,” Kessler said of Krishna, joining fellow freshmen Daniel Zhu and JiHyuk Im in the singles lineup.

The University did the most damage in doubles, winning 8 of 9 matches.

The team of seniors SangHyuk Im and Bradley Yung scored three games, including the championship point. Langston Walter-Wu and Humam Alajeely also scored, while juniors Cedric Lichtsteiner and Joseph Chan won 2 of 3.

“Our doubles is just so tough,” Kessler said. “(Our team is) a good mix of older and younger players.”

Corona del Mar was tied 3-3 after the first round.

“After the first lap I thought we looked good,” Hoffmann said. “It’s fun (they play). .. It’s a bit like the final boss, right? “Are we going to do it this time?” This one felt closer.”

The university defeated Corona del Mar in the Open Division finals in 2023 and ’22 by scores of 12-6 on the year.

The theme of the rivalry changed slightly this spring when Corona del Mar defeated University in the teams’ first non-league dual match in late February. The Sea Kings recorded a 9-9 match win (89-79).

It was Corona del Mar’s first victory against the University in a game since 2006.

In March, University took the teams’ second dual meet 11-7 and went on to claim the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

In Division 1:

JSerra 12, Brentwood 6: Freshman Riley Anson secured a championship point with an ace as the No. 2 seed Lions (21-0) and co-coaches Kirk and Keith Orahood capped an undefeated season and won their first section championship.

Last season, JSerra lost to Sage Hill 10-8 in the Division 2 finals.

Anson, the Trinity League singles champion, put together a singles lineup that won 8 of 9 matches. Anson and junior Brady Schaefgen won their three matches, while sophomore Cole Carlson won two of three.

“We played as a family,” Anson said. “That really helped us.”

In Division 2:

Spur 10, Flintridge Prep 8: The top-seeded Knights (18-3) won 8 of 9 doubles matches to claim their first section title.

Foothill coach Dennis Claus, in his 29th season, expressed his gratitude for the championship.

“We’ve always been close and had good teams, but this is a special group,” Claus said during his second stint with the program. “Foothill has probably had more upside than almost any other high school. … For some reason they could never get CIF done.”

“I’m just blessed,” he added. “We get the CIF championship … and my wife (Alice) is pregnant and has to give birth now.”

Foothill, a Division 1 playoff team last season, won the second close game of the tournament following its doubles strength.

The No. 1 team of Jaxon Bach and Emilio Rodriguez and the No. 3 team of Ethan Kleinman and Nathan Nguyen each won their three matches. The number 2 team of Wilson Collas and Ethan Cho won 2 of the 3 matches.

Fittingly, Kleinman and Nguyen secured the title in the third round, which led to the Knights storming their court.

Foothill also earned singles victories over Thien-Tho Nguyen and Caleb Posner. Nguyen fought off three match points and won 7-5.