University is the defending Division 1 champion. Pictured: University's Gage Brymer is one of the players to watch this season.

Boys tennis 2011 season preview


The county’s toughest league is stronger this season.

University, the defending CIF Division 1 champion, and Corona del Mar have competed against each other for Pacific Coast League supremacy for the past decade, but there’s a newcomer this year thanks to the current league cycle.

Woodbridge joins the Pacific Coast this season, giving the league the top three teams in the county preseason rankings. University is No. 1; Corona del Mar is No. 2; Woodbridge is No. 3.

“It’s highly unusual,” Woodbridge coach Ric Barth said. “I don’t remember there being three teams like this in the same league.”

University is seeking its sixth consecutive finals appearance, and the Trojans could have their deepest team yet. Corona del Mar, which reached the semifinals last year, returns No. 1 singles player Shane Korber and three returning all-county doubles players.

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However, Woodbridge is poised to challenge Corona del Mar’s hold on the No. 2 spot with the possible arrival of five new players, including four sophomores, joining returners Patrick Lipscomb and Jake De Vries.

The remaining teams include Irvine, Northwood and Beckman. Irvine finished third in the Pacific Coast last season, while Northwood was runner up to Woodbridge in the Sea View League.

“It’s not only that we have the one, two and three teams in the county,” University coach John Kessler said, “but we have Irvine and Northwood too.”

While looking at the strength of this year’s league, Corona del Mar coach Brian Ricker speculated that at one point this season the Pacific Coast could have five teams in the county’s top 10.

“There’s crazy power in the league,” he said. “As a coach, I like it. It’s great for the players because they get to work on their games and improve. It gets you ready for the playoffs.”

Of course, in tennis there are individual playoffs as well. Though the newly formed league has made it arguably the deepest in California, it created issues with the individual league tournament, where players qualify for CIF.

Each league gets two spots for singles and two spots for doubles. In a league that features players like University’s Gage Brymer and Stefan Menichella, Lipscomb and Korber, to name a few, some won’t make CIF.

“To me that’s a major story,” Kessler said. “Look at the kids being left out. There are all sorts of questions for individuals.”

It’s an equally deep year for individual talent throughout the county, led by Canyon senior Denis Nguyen. Last year as a junior he finished second place at Ojai and reached the CIF semifinals in singles. They were his only two losses.

“Unless he took a year off, he’s going to be tough,” Ricker said. “He keeps getting stronger and stronger.”

Nguyen leads a county talent pool that features more than 25 players ranked in the top 100 in their respective age division in the USTA So. Cal rankings. The majority are underclassmen, including juniors like Gannon Daynes (El Toro), Jonathan Poon (Trabuco Hills), Jonathan Hammel (Valencia), Caryl Hernandez (Troy) and Jack Ventura-Cruess (El Dorado).

Top-ranked University’s starting lineup features seven players ranked in the top 100 of their respective divisions, including freshmen Drew Dawson and Eric Tseng.

“We are really, really deep,” Kessler said. “We have some new blood. They are fired up.”

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