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CdM responds to pressure with dominating effort
NEWPORT BEACH – At this point in the season, when stakes are multiplied and mistakes are magnified, each tennis team lucky enough to make a deep postseason run understands that in the single-elimination playoff format you don’t simply advance to the next round.
After lulling through a second-round victory over Brentwood last week, Corona del Mar (19-3) survived once again, this time in dominating fashion, with a 16-2 victory over Calabasas in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs on Tuesday afternoon.
“Extremely nervous,” Sea Kings senior Alex Murray said of his pre-match emotions. “The stakes are high, obviously. Those nerves were there with me on the court today. Sometimes what I do is talk to myself and turn those nerves into emotion.
“Then I start getting into the game, start playing tennis and they go away.”
Playing with Chaz Downing - one of Murray’s three rotating doubles partners - the senior claimed all three sets, 6-4, 6-2 and 6-1, to return to the semifinals after a year hiatus.
“It’s always important to get your sets because you never know how everyone else is doing,” Murray said. “You want to play top-notch tennis and get those wins.”
As a team, Corona del Mar won all nine doubles sets for the second time in three rounds.
With Downing - one of the Sea Kings’ usual singles players - feeling ill this week, Coach Brian Ricker inserted freshman and usual doubles player, Henry Gordon, into the top singles spot where he swept, 6-1, 6-1, 7-6.
“I was upset Chaz was sick and wouldn’t get a chance to play singles, but I was happy I got a chance to play against three real good players,” Gordon said. “The first set I was getting used to playing singles again and the last two I really got back in rhythm.”
In the match-swinging first round, Corona del Mar took all six sets to grab ahold of the match.
“That (the first round) was one of the best rounds we’ve had all year because all those sets were close,” Ricker said. “It’s funny how it works given how we played last week.”
With four sets separating the hosts from the semifinals, Corona del Mar took five in both the second and third rounds to complete one of its best matches of the season.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Gordon said. “I know that now we have a chance to play Harvard-Westlake again. They’re a really good team.
“It’s just an honor to play Corona del Mar tennis. We’re a really good team and I’m looking forward to the semis.”