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University boys tennis 'dynasty' wins Ojai again
OJAI - The frightening thing about University’s most recent Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament triumph isn’t that the Trojans dropped just one of the 25 sets they played over the weekend.
Or that, together, they emerged victorious from a 64-player/team bracket full of upper-echelon high school tennis players.
Or even that they claimed both the singles and doubles championship on their way to earning the revered, once-in-a-generation “dynasty” label.
No, the frightening thing about University’s gold-laden Saturday is that the three players responsible for the Trojans’ third-straight Griggs Cup will be back on the Libbey Park courts playing for the same Cup next year.
“This never gets old,” University coach John Kessler said. “You have to love this stuff. Every year has its own little challenges and obstacles and to get back this year was incredible.
“Hopefully we can keep this tradition alive with the players we have coming back next year.”
By defeating Cristobal Rivera of Santa Monica in the quarters, Thomas Pura of Brentwood in the semis and Tyler Pham of Rancho Bernardo in the finals, junior Gage Brymer became just the fourth two-time singles champion in the 112-year history of the famed tournament.
“It’s a cool feeling to win such a prestigious trophy and be associated with the players who have won twice,” he said. “Hopefully next year we can come back and have the same success.”
In the doubles bracket, University’s twosome of Stefan Menichella and Drew Dawson defeated Rancho Bernardo and Harvard-Westlake in succession to setup a championship match with Torrey Pines.
After claiming the first set, 6-3, the top-seeded pair dropped the second set, 7-6, forcing a 10-point championship-match tiebreaker.
“Each game in that second set we had a chance to break them (Torrey Pines) and I was surprised that we didn’t,” Menichella said. “After we dropped the second set, I said to Drew, ‘Let’s finish it in the tiebreaker; let’s finish it here at Ojai.’”
After dropping the first point in the extra set, Menichella and Dawson claimed 10 of the next 13 to become University’s first Ojai doubles champion.
“We had business to take care of,” Dawson said of the match-deciding set. “We weren’t playing for ourselves, we were playing for the team; and not just the three people here, but the extended team and all the coaches too.”
With the three-set doubles victory, University earned enough points (11) - one per match win - to claim the Griggs Cup before Brymer had a chance to wrap up his singles title.
“The thing that makes this tournament great is the fans,” Dawson said. “I enjoy playing in front of a crowd. A lot of people expect there to be nerves, but for some reason that’s when I play my best.
“It was really fun to be able to enjoy this win with Stef.”
After falling in the semifinals last year, the doubles title was especially meaningful for Menichella.
“It means a lot to win here,” he said. “I’ve been coming to this tournament since I was nine years old, playing all through the ranks and I never once dreamed of winning here.”