University boys’ tennis falls to Punahou of Hawaii in the finals of the All-American Tournament – Orange County Register

The university boys’ tennis team placed second to Punahou of Hawaii in the National All-American Team Tournament at the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach on Saturday, March 25, 2023. (Photo by Dan Albano, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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NEWPORT BEACH — John Kessler, varsity boys’ tennis coach, joked that he knew his Trojans, who had had back-to-back comeback victories at the All-American tournament, were in trouble when they took an early lead against Hawaii’s Punahou last Saturday went.

Kessler maintained his sense of humor and pride in his team after Punahou lived up to his No. 1 by staging a dramatic rally to dethrone reigning Champion University 5-4 at the Palisades Tennis Club.

Punahou won the prestigious 16-team tournament for the first time.

“I’m proud of her. We fought,” Kessler said of his team, which suffered their first defeat of the season. “I think we’re a pretty strong team and so are they. They simply prevailed. It happens.”

“You have to lose with class,” added the veteran coach. “It’s okay. Hopefully bigger things are coming (this season).”

University, a four-time winner of the national tournament, took a 2-1 lead after the teams’ three doubles. Punahou responded by claiming four of the six single sets. The Honolulu powerhouse sprinted to victory, claiming the final three sets that ended in the No. 2, No. 6, and No. 5 singles respectively.

Dozens of players and spectators crowded the seats in the far corner of the club to watch as the No. 5 and No. 6 singles decided the final lead. The tournament format challenged schools to field six players for singles in the finals instead of five in earlier rounds.

Punahou’s No. 6 Seiya Kudo defeated varsity left-hander freshman Langston Walter-Wu 8-7 (7-2) in a tie-breaker. Tanner Ige, No. 5, then defeated Trojans second left-hander Joe Chan 8-6 to win the championship point, prompting a wild celebration from Punahou.

“It’s tremendous,” said Punahou coach Ikaika Jobe of the win, “especially for a Hawaii team that’s coming here for everyone to take us seriously this time. A lot of the mainland teams don’t really take the Hawaii boys seriously, so it was really nice to be able to showcase our talent.”

University rallied in the semifinals to defeat No. 2-seeded Menlo 4-4 in games (57-47) to advance to their ninth tournament final. The Trojans were 3-0 down after doubles. Punahou defeated the Peninsula 5-3 in the other semifinal.

On Friday, the University defeated the Memphis University School of Tennessee 5-3 after trailing 2-1 in the quarterfinals game.

The Trojans, whose primary goal is to defend their CIF-SS Open Division crown, made a quick makeover this spring.

They added Transfer James MacDonald at the top of the lineup and second Ari Lens, who played in the finals at #4 singles. The duo joins returning standouts Ani Gupta (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Commitment) and SangHyuk Im.

University matching was particularly effective in doubles #1. MacDonald and Im won the final 8-7 (7-4). Andrew Ke and Bradley Yung added an 8-6 win in No. 3 doubles.


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