May 27, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Uni tennis players were determined to avenge last year’s loss and bring home CIF title

University players from left senior Omar Khayat, senior Conrad Brown, and sophomore SangHyuk Im helped the Trojans win the CIF Open Division title. (Photo courtesy University athletics).

Conrad Brown and his teammates on the University tennis team have been aiming for one goal all season and Friday afternoon they accomplished it when the Trojans won the CIF Open Division title.

The Trojans captured the programs’s 13th overall title and 10th for Coach John Kessler with a 12-6 victory over Corona del Mar at the Claremont Club.

“We’re stoked, that was our main goal of the season, obviously winning All-American was huge and then my individual title at Ojai was huge for me but that was the main thing as a team that we had circled on our calendar that we wanted to win the most,” said Brown, the Trojans captain and top singles player.

The Trojans had extra motivation after losing in a close match to Harvard-Westlake in the finals last year and the lingering memories.

This season, they got their chance against CdM, a Pacific Coast League rival.

“It started off really intense and we knew it was gong to be tough early because they bring a lot of energy but our number one doubles team (Omar Khayat and Champion Okey) came back from a 1-5 (deficit) and our number two singles player (Ani Gupta) came back from 3-5 and we took those both sets and I kind of knew it was done from there after the first round when we got up 5-1.

“It looked like it was going to be three all after the first round and then five or 10 minutes later, all of a sudden we were up 5-1 and we knew our lineup had too much depth to where we had it locked up after the first round.”

Brown recorded the opening point with a 6-1 win at number one singles.

“I started off playing against Neils Hoffmann, the number one for CdM, and I had a lot of energy early and I got down 0-1 and I won six games in a row. I was on center court just having a blast, there was electrifying energy feeding off the crowd. I was having fun out there.”

Brown said he and his teammates were happy for Coach John Kessler, who celebrated a personal milestone.

“It was his 10th title, so that’s a big number for him,” said Brown, who has a tennis scholarship to play at UC Santa Barbara.

“We should have won it last year, we fought so hard to come back and make up for last year. We lost a heartbreaker last year in the finals, nine all and we lost by games to Harvard Westlake. This year, we go and beat them. It was like a revenge match. I won my matches 6-0, 6-0, 6-1 and it made up for last year’s damage.”

The Trojans opened their CIF title run with a 14-4 victory over Harvard Westlake.

University (26-0) will now compete in the Southern California Regionals beginning Friday.

“Regionals is another big one for us,” Brown said. “I know a lot of the guys on the team want to go out and win that and knock down all four titles. Coach Kessler honestly is not the one advocating for us to play. We as a team wanted to go out and win regionals. Last year, we didn’t play regionals and then my freshman year, when we won CIF, we played regionals but we were missing half our guys.

“So we kind of consider CIF as our Super Bowl and that after that we either play regionals or we don’t, but this year, we’re going for it.”

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com