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University fills big hole in its trophy case
SEAL BEACH – University is now legitimized as a tennis powerhouse.
It might be surprising to think that a program that has been to the CIF-SS Boys Tennis Championships the past five years was still looking for something, but after Saturday at the Seal Beach Tennis Center, the Trojans' trophy case is complete.
Sophomore Gage Brymer won the singles title at the CIF-SS Boys Individual Tennis Championships, and senior Kona Luu and freshman Drew Dawson won the doubles crown to give University its first two CIF-SS individual titles in the school's history.
"We've never had a singles or a doubles champ," University coach John Kessler said. "This, in a way, legitimizes how deep and how good we are. We've never done this before, and it's great for the program. But mostly, it's great for the kids because it shows everyone how good they are."
University is the first team since 1995 and just the sixth team to produce the singles and doubles champion in the same CIF-SS individual tournament since its inception in 1922.
To win the singles title, Brymer defeated Brentwood sophomore T.J. Pura, 6-2, 6-3, controlling points by keeping his opponent sprinting from one corner of the court to the other. Pura advanced to the finals by defeating Canyon's Denis Nguyen in two sets in the semifinals.
"I wanted to be solid like I am, and I wanted to show my accuracy by keeping him moving him all around," Brymer said. "I felt like I was hitting a pretty heavy ball, and he couldn't attack off of it or come in and do what he wanted to do. I felt like I was in control."
Brymer, one of the top ranked players nationally in his age group, won titles this year at the Easter Bowl (a top USTA event) and at the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament, and Saturday's victory was just as important.
"They all feel great to win," he said, "and those are big tournaments, but since this for my school and we all got one, it makes this pretty special."
During Brymer's second set, something one court over caught his eye. His teammates, Luu and Dawson, became the first players from University to win a CIF-SS individual crown.
"It was a little distracting during my match because I was so happy for them," Brymer said. "After they won, I had to pick it up."
Luu and Dawson executed flawlessly in two difficult matches Saturday, getting past a tough team from Palos Verdes before beating Peninsula's Shuhai Shubahara and Chris Dalton, 6-3, 6-2, in the finals.
Peninsula defeated University's other doubles team, Tyler Lu and Ryo Shimizu, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a very close semifinal match.
For Luu, it was the accomplishment of a goal he set at the beginning of the season – only he didn't know who his partner would be.
Kessler paired Dawson with Luu late in the season, and the two rolled through the CIF-SS tournament, losing more than three games in a set only once.
"We were pumped up for these matches," Luu said.
Luu and his teammates will also be amped Wednesday, when University tries to cap its season in a perfect way. The Trojans will face Harvard-Westlake in the finals of the CIF-SS team tennis tournament at the Claremont Club.
"Hopefully, we can add another title," Dawson said.