Constantly pushing the envelope

Few boys' tennis programs can match University's success during the past five-plus seasons, but the Trojans are far from satisfied.

April 09, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • The University High boys' tennis team has reached the past five CIF Southern Section Division I championships, winning three.
The University High boys' tennis team has reached… (Courtesy University…)

University High boys' tennis Coach John Kessler's job is more difficult than one might think.

Sure, his program continues to have remarkable success, but that's where it gets challenging. Kessler, in his 10th year at University, is having a hard time finding a ladder long enough to allow him to keep raising the bar.

Such are the travails of coaching a team that has been to five consecutive CIF Southern Section Division I finals, winning three, holds a regular-season record of 102-4 during the past five-plus seasons and continues to feature some of the top boys' tennis players in the nation.

"Irvine is a hotbed for tennis and we've been fortunate to have a lot of quality players," Kessler said. "I have to keep finding ways for motivation, so our goal this year is to win three things — the All-American Tournament, Ojai and CIF. We've never won all three in the same year."


University has one down, two to go. The Trojans won the All-American Tournament held in Newport Beach last month, no small feat considering it annually features some of the top high school tennis teams in the country.

University was seeded No. 2, but breezed to the championship, beating Los Gatos and Rancho Bernardo by the same 8-0 score, then beating R.J. Reynolds High (Winston Salem, N.C.), 7-1, to reach the championship match against The Menlo School from Atherton, Calif.

University, which had lost to The Menlo School in last year's tournament final, turned it around and won the tournament title with a 7-1 victory.

The Ojai Valley Tournament, another nationally acclaimed tournament, takes place later this month, followed by the Trojans' quest to defend last year's CIF Division I crown.

University is 12-0 this season, including 6-0 in the Pacific Coast League, seemingly on its way to a sixth consecutive PCL title. The Trojans are 54-1 in league play going back to 2006.

This year's team is young, as the top four players on the team are freshmen and sophomores.

No. 1 Gage Brymer, a sophomore, and No. 2 Stefan Menichella, also a sophomore, are University's best players, but for different reasons.

"Stefan is 6 feet 4 and is growing very fast," Kessler said. "His issue is growing into his body. He hits a big shot, but he's a more crafty type of player. He has a good drop shot. He's not as clean, but has more shots than Gage.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles