San Diego: CCA Boys look to follow upset-minded Girls toward championship - USTA
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San Diego: CCA Boys look to follow upset-minded Girls toward championship

The girls tennis team of San Diego’s Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) overthrew the greatest dynasty in California girls’ sports history and started their own 4-year dynastic run. This week the CCA boys have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps in displacing a generationally dominant team.

THE FALL & RISE OF JUGGERNAUTS

The CCA senior girls this fall completed a historic string of four consecutive CIF Open Division tennis team championships. This title run was less remarkable for its length than for the all-time record streak it interrupted.

That historic streak belonged to the girls tennis team at Torrey Pines High School, 2.5 miles up Del Mar Heights Road from CCA. The Torrey Pines CIF title streak started a generation earlier, the year the Berlin Wall came down and the first page of the world wide web went up. Torrey Pines won 28 straight CIF Section Championships, a girls’ state record in any sport among multi-league sections.

The shift in dominance between Torrey Pines and CCA was abrupt and complete. At the end of their run, Torrey Pines lost their top six players, five to graduation and one to transfer. Meanwhile CCA brought in a tidal wave of tennis talent that would turn CCA into an instant national power, ranked #5 by UTR National Team Ratings even without its best player. Four future Division I college tennis scholarship players would join two future collegiate players who returned to CCA. One of the 1st-years, Katie Codd, would reach #1 in the country in the USTA girls 18 & under division. Another, Asha Gidwani, reached #4 in Southern California and #46 nationally. Beyond the four future collegiate players, four other entering players would achieve CIF all-conference distinction this year, including Emma Cao in singles.

This year CCA’s depth nearly delivered its first ever state championship. In the CIF State Regional finals, against the #1 team in the National UTR Team Rankings, CCA came within one doubles match of winning the championship, ending in a tiebreaker.

WILL THE CCA BOYS END TORREY PINES’ GENERATION OF DOMINANCE?

This week, in the CIF San Diego Section Team Championships, the CCA boys are positioned to follow in the footsteps of the girls in superseding a generationally dominant team from Torrey Pines.

The Torrey Pines boys team has approached the championship consistency of the Torrey Pines girls while reaching even greater heights. The boys have been CIF section finalists for 29 straight years, during which time they won 21 championships including the last 5 non-coed seasons. Whereas the Torrey Pines girls won a solitary State Regional Championship, the boys won 3 of the last 5 state titles in non-coed seasons as well as two national titles. Torrey Pines boasted such luminary players as Taylor Fritz, currently #13 in the world professional rankings.

Although the 2020 season was canceled, signs of a shift in dominance came last spring during a season played coed due to the pandemic-related cancellation of the girls’ fall season. In the conference team finals against Torrey Pines, won by CCA, the CCA boys held their own with a 4-2 record in boys-only matches.

Yet the coed title did not establish supremacy for the CCA boys. The coed competition format involved fewer boys playing a third of the usual number of same-gender matches as in a regular boys season. That CCA could prevail over Torrey Pines within the usual boys-only format remained to be proved.

Moreover, achieving conclusive dominance this year is far from assured for CCA. There is a team rated ahead of CCA in this week’s Section Championships as well as a number of other threats to CCA’s championship aspirations, including Torrey Pines.

While CCA holds a UTR national ranking of #13, The Bishops School is ranked even higher at #7 and is top-seeded just ahead of CCA in the Team Championships. CCA holds the edge at the very top of the lineup – CCA senior captain Zach Pellouchoud was named the #1 seed for the Section’s upcoming Individual Championship. CCA also has greater depth of highly rated players. However, Bishop’s players have higher individual UTR ratings than CCA’s at a majority of starting positions.

Meanwhile, to reach the finals against Bishops, CCA would need to get past national #35 and 3rd-seeded Del Norte. Two other national top-60 teams, Torrey Pines and La Jolla Country Day, could await CCA in the final if Bishops stumbles. Each of these teams, as well as Bishops, defeated CCA during the regular season.

CCA’s regular season losses, which all came with CCA missing two of its three top players, underscores how this year’s CIF team championship will not be decided on paper. Injury or absence of any of CCA’s or Bishop’s top players could block their path to the finals or change the expected outcome of their collision. Even fully manned, the ratings of the Bishops and CCA players are close enough for CCA reasonably to hope for an upset.

However, unless Torrey Pines can pull off a far more shocking run of upsets, this year’s CIF Team Championships seems likely to mark an inflection point in the history of California boys high school tennis. One of California‚Äôs premier CIF tennis finals streaks would be broken and Torrey Pines’ 29-year run of section dominance would be over.

If so, will CCA start the next boys tennis dynasty as the CCA girls did? CCA’s unrivaled depth of highly-rated players on the 29-player varsity team suggests that the concentration of tennis talent that made Torrey Pines traditionally dominant is making a lasting shift to its neighboring sister school.

Will Bishops, a private school, stave off the start of a CCA boys tennis dynasty by winning this year’s championship and continuing to assemble a national tennis power?

No doubt the boys of Torrey Pines, CCA, Bishops and other teams are eager for the chance to settle San Diego Section bragging rights on the court this week, during a regular boys’ season, for the first time in three years.