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University makes it three in a row
CLAREMONT – Every single one of the surrounding spectators felt the magnitude of what was unfolding; every fan, every reserve, every coach knew what this particular set meant for both teams.
Everybody, that is, except the four competitors on the court.
With the five other opening-round sets in the book, University's Skyler Butts and Konrad Kozlowski gave the Trojans (21-0) the momentum they needed to surge to a 13-5 victory over Corona del Mar (21-3) in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship Wednesday afternoon at The Claremont Club.
University claimed its third consecutive CIF-SS championship.
"It was a match we had to have," University coach John Kessler said of the No. 2 doubles matchup. "Corona del Mar put a lot of pressure on us in doubles and, although I think we still would've done well in singles, that doubles set was pivotal."
Trailing Corona del Mar's Alec Adamson and Carson Williams up to 4-3, Butts and Kozlowski broke the Sea Kings' serve and held theirs to jump ahead.
"To be honest, I had no idea what the overall team score was at that point," Butts said. "I just knew we had to execute."
After splitting the next two points, Adamson and Williams held serve to force a tiebreaker.
"Coach Kessler kept saying how big of a set it was," Kozlowski said. "I tried to stay focused and play the way I can play, especially after being down 0-4 in the tiebreaker."
From four down to two up, Butts and Kozlowski took seven of the final eight points in the tiebreaker to hand University a 4-2 first-round edge.
"It was the greatest feeling winning that set," Butts said. "I don't know how the match would've played out had we dropped it. I think that win propelled us."
The Trojans' duo wound up taking all three of its sets, 7-6, 6-4 and 6-2 to lead University.
"Adding them (Butts and Kozlowski) to our lineup was the last piece of the puzzle," Kessler said. "As a senior, Skyler took Konrad, a freshman, under his wing and they just clicked. Winning without them would've been really difficult."
Despite dropping the tiebreaker, Adamson and Williams took their final two sets, 6-4 and 7-6 as part of the Sea Kings' 5-4 advantage in doubles.
Overshadowed by plenty of noteworthy players, namely Gage Brymer (three 6-0 sets), Drew Dawson (three claimed singles sets) and Stefan Menichella (likewise), Butts and Kozlowski found themselves getting ample amounts of post-match praise.
"It's hard to believe we have this team," Kozlowski said. "We don't take it as a given that we'll be in the finals every year; we work as hard as we can, especially in doubles. CdM brought it in doubles today and we had to play our best. Things just went our way."