Members of the all city tennis team include back row (from left to right) Irvine's Kenny Gea, Woodbridge's Patrick Lipscomb and University's Stefan Menichella. Front row (from left to right) Woodbridge's Jake De Vries, Northwood's Julian Ruffin, University's Drew Dawson, University's Gage Brymer, University's Ryo Shimizu and University's Eric Tseng. Not pictured are University's Kona Luu, University's Tyler Lu, University's Anthony Su and Woodbridge's Joey Brandt.
BRENT SHAVER, IRVINE WORLD NEWS
University High boys tennis player Gage Brymer is always trying to find ways to get better.
He just had one of the best seasons in Orange County history, but there is no rest.
Tournaments, practice, fitness training and thinking about the game are what he is up to this summer.
"What I am trying to develop, that is somewhat there, is being even smarter on the court," Brymer said. "I don't want to be wild with my shots. I want to think out points even more."
Brymer, who was named the Orange County Register boys tennis player of the year, is the Irvine World News All-City Most Valuable Player.
He is as solid off the court as he is on it.
The sophomore lost just one match all season long in helping lead the Trojans to a perfect team season.
University, which went undefeated, captured the National All-American Tournament, Ojai Griggs Cup, Pacific Coast League title and then blasted Harvard-Westlake to win the CIF Division I crown – its second straight CIF title and fourth in the last five years.
Along the way, Brymer did his own kind of damage.
With his all-court game, including searing ground strokes, huge forehand and ever-improving serve, he dominated. Brymer was named all-tournament at the All-American tourney, won the Ojai singles event, captured the Pacific Coast League singles crown and then claimed the ultimate individual prize of the season, taking the CIF singles title.
Brymer was also selected to the end of the year All-American team. Add on that Brymer won the singles title at the Easter Bowl (a USTA national level event) in early April, and it was a few months to always remember for the sophomore.
"There was so much success this year it is hard to pick out the highlights," Brymer said. "Ojai definitely was up there. I really like Ojai and that experience. It is such a fun tournament and different from anything else we play. The All-American tournament was special too. Everyone on our team played so well."
And that is what is special about Brymer. Even after the wins over some of the best players in the nation like N.C. State-bound Robbie Mudge, Cal-bound Andrew Ball and Jonny Wang, it always comes back to the team for him.
"Tennis is usually an individual sport for us," he said. "Playing with a team is very cool."
And it something he doesn't plan on moving away from any time soon – unlike many other highly ranked juniors who forgo high school tennis to focus even more on training.
"It is a fun thing to do," Brymer said. "This team is so good and I want to be a part of it. There are a lot of benefits of me playing. It is so much fun with these guys and they are such good players. We have such a strong team. It helps my game. I am not thinking of leaving. I am pretty set on staying here."
Coach John Kessler isn't complaining.
"I have been lucky enough to have some incredible tennis players here at Uni over the 10 years that I have coached, but I don't know if I have had a player, especially one so young, who has been so successful at this point," he said. "Gage is such a competitor. He has the same energy one hour into a match that he had at the beginning of the match.
"When you watch him, he is so focused on every ball. He has tremendous mental discipline. Gage also puts in the behind the scenes work. He does fitness off the court and is a student of the game."
But Kessler said there is so much more that makes Brymer the ultimate teammate and such a fantastic player.
"I think the most important factor that has made Gage successful is his parents," Kessler said. "Chuck (his personal coach) and Mary have a great relationship with him. I have personally seen how Chuck interacts with him before, during and after a match. Gage hits one big shot after another. For him to do this requires a lot of training but also a comfort level and confidence that he gets from his mom and dad."
The rest of the all-city tennis team:
Stefan Menichella, University
Stefan Menichella deserves as much credit as anyone for Uni's standout season. The sophomore and No. 2 singles player gave all he had for the team all season long, even in the CIF title match when he was under the weather.
The 6-4 Menichella, who recently won an Open Tournament in Santa Barbara, finished second in singles at the Pacific Coast League Finals and went deep into the CIF singles event. He was named first team all-county.
"I thought it was really cool at the PCL individual tournament when (teammate) Gage (Brymer) and I made the finals," Menichella said. "We beat good players in the semis and then had a competitive match. It was a great memory."
Drew Dawson, University
A lot was expected of freshman Drew Dawson this season and he definitely didn't disappoint.
Dawson earned all-tournament honors at the National All-American event, won the Pacific Coast League doubles title with partner Kona Luu, went on to capture the CIF doubles title with Luu and was named first team all-county.
Dawson, a singles player most of the season, also came up big in doubles during Uni's CIF title win over Harvard-Westlake by sweeping three sets.
"I am always trying to improve every shot, trying to hit the ball bigger and get more consistent," Dawson said.
Kona Luu, University
Kona Luu had a spectacular four years for the Trojans. The senior helped Uni win four Pacific Coast League titles, two All-American titles, two Ojai titles and three CIF championships.
Luu, who is headed to UC San Diego, also added a CIF doubles title to his resume this year with partner Drew Dawson. The duo also won the PCL doubles crown.
Known for his doubles play, Luu showed what he could do in singles against Woodbridge. With Uni missing its top four players, he was the difference in a 10-8 win over Woodbridge, winning his sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0.
Tyler Lu, University
Lu, a sophomore, was University's most improved players this season as well as one of its most important.
Adept at either singles or doubles, he showed his value in both. Lu was named to the all-tournament team at the National All-American event early on.
He partnered with Ryo Shimizu to be runners-up at the Pacific Coast League doubles tournament and then make the CIF doubles tournament semifinals. At the CIF Division I team final, competing in singles, Lu swept, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, as Uni defeated Harvard-Westlake, 14-4.
Ryo Shimizu, University
Shimizu, a junior, played a major role in helping University to its second straight CIF title. He swept with Drew Dawson in the CIF title win over Harvard-Westlake. A master at net, Shimizu was one of the most consistent doubles players for the Trojans.
Shimizu, originally from Japan, was named first team all-county after finishing second in league in doubles and reaching the CIF doubles semifinals with Tyler Lu.
"One of my favorite matches was when we came back to beat Woodbridge, 10-8," Shimizu said. "We didn't have Gage and Stefan and Drew and we still beat them. I swept in doubles with Anthony Su."Patrick Lipscomb, Woodbridge
Lipscomb, a senior, showed what dedication and hard work can accomplish. He got better each year with the Warriors and will now play at the University of Redlands.
Lipscomb helped Woodbridge make it to the semifinals of the CIF playoffs with an upset win over Santa Barbara in the quarters. He swept against Santa Barbara, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2.
Lipscomb beat the likes of Stefan Menichella and Shane Korber and was named first team all-county this season.
"I had a few good personal wins, but the team moments are what really mattered," Lipscomb said.
Kenny Gea, Irvine
When facing Irvine, the likes of Gage Brymer, Drew Dawson, Stefan Menichella, Shane Korber and Patrick Lipscomb knew they were in for a battle against Kenny Gea. He played No. 1 singles for the Vaqueros.
The sophomore, known for his big forehand, even defeated Menichella in one contest.
"I feel like anybody has a shot in the matches because it is just one set," he said. "It is about who can get out to a quick start. In high school matches, I feel like I can play with anyone."
Julian Ruffin, Northwood
Ruffin, a junior, was a leader on and off the court for the Timberwolves as the team's No. 1 player.
The speedy, chase down ever ball Ruffin, who was named honorable mention all-county, helped guide Northwood through the tough PCL and make the CIF playoffs.
"One of the biggest highlights was when we came back to beat Irvine," he said. "We were down, turned it around and won on games. It is always about supporting your team and trying to do your best for the school."Jake De Vries, Woodbridge
De Vries had some impressive individual moments for the Warriors this past season like reaching the semifinals of the Pacific Coast League finals in doubles and being named honorable mention all-county.
But the sophomore, who was also one of the top three singles players on the squad, said they were nothing compared to what the team accomplished.
"Beating Santa Barbara at Santa Barbara (in the CIF playoff quarterfinals on games) was definitely the best moment of the season," he said. "Nothing else was even close."Joey Brandt, Woodbridge
Brandt, a senior, was a newcomer for the Warriors. Originally from Northern California, Brandt attended the Advantage Tennis Academy at the Racquet Club of Irvine and Woodbridge this season.
He was a top-three singles player for Woodbridge. And University Coach John Kessler said Brandt was one of the best players his team faced all season. Brandt and partner Jake De Vries reached the semifinals of the Pacific Coast League doubles event.
Brandt, who was named honorable mention all-county, is headed to the Air Force Academy in the fall.
Eric Tseng, University
Tseng, a freshman, made a big splash for the Trojans this season. A top singles player in his age group in junior play, he teamed with Anthony Su as the season went on to form one of University's top three doubles teams. The duo defeated all of its opponents from the city in league.
Tseng and Su won two of three sets in University's 14-4 victory over Harvard-Westlake in the CIF Division I championship match.
"It was fun playing high school tennis," Tseng said. "Traveling with the team was a highlight. I improved my doubles game a lot during the season. At the beginning it was pretty hard, but I got better and better at it."
Anthony Su, University
Su, a junior, is a doubles specialist for the Trojans. Coach John Kessler could always count on Su to do what was best for the team. Su took freshman Eric Tseng under his wing and the duo became one of University's top doubles teams.
Su used his solid volley skills as to be the dominant player at the net, while Tseng set up poaching opportunities up for his partner with strong ground strokes from the baseline.
Su and Tseng were both named honorable mention all-county.
(Profiles by Brent Shaver).