Hoffmann runner-up at Ojai for second straight year


OJAI – The road back to the finale was nothing short of brutal.

As the bracket was constructed, Corona del Mar senior Bjorn Hoffmann was forced to navigate his way past the the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in Jacob Brumm (Torrey Pines) before encountering a top-10 nationally ranked player in Billy Rowe just to secure a spot on center court for the championship match.

Behind moments of pure brilliance, Hoffmann did just that.

But in the final, the Sea Kings blue chipper was confronted with a puzzle he was never quite able to crack in second-seeded Connor Hance of Peninsula High of Rolling Hills Estates.

Content with slowing the pace, sitting back and rallying, a mistake-free Hance was able to best Hoffmann, 6-2, 6-2, in the CIF singles championship match of the 116th annual Ojai Tournament at Libbey Park on Saturday afternoon.

The runner-up finish was Hoffmann’s second straight silver medal result, something the three-year Ojai vet was plenty proud of even in defeat.

“It’s such a prestigious tournament, I’ve really grown to love this area, and the people here are always so great,” Hoffmann said. “To have my picture up here twice is pretty cool, and I look forward to coming back next year with the Cal guys.”

The Cal-bound senior opened his day with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Rowe (Coronado High) in the semis, showcasing his marksmanship and power with a consistent big first serve.

Hoffmann struggled to maintain such precision in the final. Hance was able to break Hoffman twice in the first three games of their opening set, and later capitalized on three straight double faults for a third break and the eventual 6-2 win.

“I feel like if I counted his errors, he may have had like five,” CdM coach Jamie Gresh said of the steady Hance. “Connor played solid tennis and he makes you have to hit through him. Bjorn needed to serve well, but his serve percentage was low.”

Hance’s court coverage and anticipation skills were striking, and being as comfortable with his backhand as he is with the forehand, the Peninsula junior was more than content with slowing the pace down, executing seemingly every shot on the court.

After splitting the first two games in the second set, Hance went on to win the next four in grabbing a 5-1 lead that never appeared in doubt with his level of consistency.

“There are so many more positives from the weekend than the one negative of Bjorn losing the final,” Gresh said. “Connor is a first-class player, and for Bjorn to beat Brumm and Billy back-to-back, he played some great tennis.

“Obviously when you lose twice in a row in the finals, you almost think of what could be. It’s like a team that makes the Super Bowl twice and they lose. People remember that, but getting here is a massive accomplishment for Bjorn. … He just ran into a bulldog.”

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