Cypress players pose for a photo after winning the CIF-SS Division 3 boys tennis championship in Claremont.

Cypress pulls out win for first CIF-SS tennis title


CLAREMONT – Pencils and scratch paper have become as essential to the Cypress-Valencia boys tennis rivalry as the racquets and tennis balls.

Two of the last three meetings between the Empire League co-champs have resulted in 9-9 score lines, and in both instances, a single game determined a victor.

All signs pointed to a similar nail-biter unfolding on Friday afternoon, but it was a surprise first-round result that gave Cypress the upper hand in what was an otherwise stalemate of a match.

Centurions senior Surya Kumaraguru notched a critical point at the No. 3 singles position in the opening round, a result that proved to be monumental in Cypress’ 10-8 victory over Valencia in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship at the Claremont Club.

The trip to the finale was the Centurions’ third consecutive appearance, but it proved to be the first time Cypress walked away with the coveted hardware, winning the school’s first CIF-SS title in boys tennis.

“It’s surreal to be able to get to this point from where we were nine years ago,” Centurions coach Joseph Paul said. “The boys are understanding the importance of working hard, and now they see the fruits of their hard work.”

It seemed fitting that top-seeded Cypress (24-1) matched up with No. 2-seed Valencia (18-4) in the final. It was almost a year ago to the day the Tigers squeaked past the Centurions on games, 83-82, in the championship match.

Valencia’s two points in the first round came from its top singles player, Jacob Lee, and No. 1 doubles team, Daniel Detchev and Matthew Cuan.

Cypress swept the remainder of the sets in play, including Kumaraguru’s 6-4 win that drew the biggest ovation from his teammates and coaches.

“Without Surya’s win, I don’t know if we get as pumped up as we did,” team captain Darrus Lee said. “It got everyone excited, and we were more positive in our style of play.”

The teams split the second and third rounds. Lee and partner Habin Gu clinched the once-elusive title with a third-round doubles win over Jacob Pan and Thomas Szczeblowski for the decisive 10th point of the match.

“It was fitting,” Paul said of facing Valencia in the final. “For how close we were in the season – splitting matches – being able to see them for the third time allows you to have a clear team that won the season.”

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