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University cleans up at PCL finals
IRVINE - In the grand scheme of things, the tennis tournament that began Thursday afternoon and bled into Thursday evening was anything but fun.
Between the all-too-familiar competition, the excessively tense games, the heavy stakes and the physical toll every point took on each competitor, the Pacific Coast League finals at Woodbridge High resembled more of a set of grueling business trips than a set of individual tennis matches.
"The great thing about this tournament is I get to play a lot of good players," Corona del Mar freshman Henry Gordon said. "It's good practice and experience. Since I'm a freshman I still have a few years ahead of me so this is a good chance to get better."
In a league overflowing with outstanding No. 1 singles players and No. 1 doubles teams, PCL champion University produced both victors in Gage Brymer and the doubles team of Ryo Shimizu and Drew Dawson.
In all, the top-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 1 sent five representatives to the semifinals and three to the finals.
"It's nice to have success here," Trojans coach John Kessler said. "It's all the little things that add up to the big picture. This just adds to our momentum going forward."
Before clashing in the doubles championship, both Shimizu and Dawson and Gordon and doubles teammate Alex Murray had to survive three-set thrillers in the semifinals.
"This is the first time in my high school career I made it to individuals," Murray said of the semifinals victory that guaranteed a spot in the CIF individuals tournament. "When we won that last point I was kind of shocked, but at the same time happy because it's a really big deal."
In the end, University's twosome edged Murray and Gordon, 8-2.
By virtue of semifinal victories over University's Reo Asami and Northwood's Julian Ruffin, Brymer and teammate Stefan Menichella met in an eight-point, pro-set championship match.
"After already playing a tough match, beating Gage was going to be tough," Menichella said. "He doesn't give anything away and he'll take things away from me that I take for granted against other players."
Brymer topped his fellow junior, 8-3, for his second consecutive PCL singles title.
"It's not fun to play against your own team," he said. "I want all of us to win everything, singles and doubles, and you can't do that when you're playing against each other."
With the individual tournament now in the rear-view mirror, University's second season starts Wednesday with the opening round of the team CIF playoffs.
"We're not the loudest team but we will pump each other up and fight for ourselves and the team," Brymer said. "When you're playing for something bigger than yourself, you fight for every match and hopefully we'll have the same success."