2014. This was the year for the Wolverines. Fresh off of winning the Mission League Title for the twentieth year in a row, the boys’ tennis team was ready for bigger things. Heading to the finals that year, the Wolverines looked to upset the consistently strong University High School (Irvine) to take the CIF championship, in what would be the school’s fourth championship in ten years. While the team played well, a few lost set points meant they ended up dropping the match 10-8, though the team was proud of how they finished their season nonetheless. 2015. This was really the year for the Wolverines. They advanced quickly to the finals, where the Los Alamitos team was skilled, cocky, and loud as ever. But the Wolverines knew they could be better. But George Noonan ’16 went down with a foot injury, and the unbeatable Michael Genender ‘15 fell ill with the stomach flu and lost his match 6-0. The Wolverines never recovered and dropped the match soundly, losing 14-4. It was their second straight finals loss, and it hurt.
The raucousness of Los Alamitos following the win only added salt to the wound for the Wolverines, and the bitter taste stuck in their mouths. 2016. This was the year of redemption. The boys got to the same hot start they’ve gotten off to for as long as any of the players could remember. After all, this is the team that has won 180 straight league matches. All they wanted was to exact that sweet, sweet revenge on Los Alamitos in the second round. The boys had stacked their doubles, and Coach Chris Simpson had calculated every match down to the point. If they could win 10 doubles matches, they could secure victory. The Wolverines were up 8-6, and all the Wolverines needed to do was to win two more doubles matches. They lost their first doubles match of the day. Los Alamitos squeaked out a victory. This one hurt the most. The match was about redemption, about the Wolverines proving themselves after their finals lost the year before, even if this year it wasn’t actually a championship. Los Alamitos was cocky and proud, and the Wolverines wanted to give them a reason to not be this cocky. But when Los Alamitos won, they continued to be the proud, conceited selves they had shown themselves to be the year before.
We had to shake their hands after, and they purposely wore their rings from the year before to rub in the loss— Jed Kronenberg '17
The uncomplimentary view of Los Alamitos is echoed by other teammates. “Tennis is supposed to be a gentleman’s sport,” Jacob Tucker ‘17 said. “The Los Alamitos fans are anything but gentlemen.” But the Wolverines had no choice but to get ready for another season. 2017. This has to be the year. The Wolverines are back, and they’re bigger and badder than ever before. They have gas in the tank. They are fired up. They are ready to reclaim their greatness. They are ready to make their mark. Chris Simpson is back for his 17th season coaching the Wolverines. In the time he’s been here, he’s won three championships, and he’s looking to put a fourth under his belt.
Because last season was marred by injuries, Simpson made sure to make transparency and treatment with the athletic trainers a priority, especially with the chronic injuries that have affected team members such as Adam Sraberg ‘17 and Sacha Pritzker ‘18. So far, he’s happy with how that is going.
We have done so well managing the injuries so far this year, which is a really good thing, because we don’t want these issues come playoffs— Coach Chris Simpson
This is the same Wolverine team that has won 183 straight league matches. In league, they are quite literally unbeatable. And upholding this streak is important to the team.
“The streak keeps us on our toes and pushes us to stay focused,” Jacob Tucker ‘17 said. “Even the slightest chance of a league game not falling our way is scary, because nobody wants to be the team that screwed it up.”
So far, it seems as though this year’s squad will not be the one to screw it up. In their six league matches so far, their smallest margin of victory was a 15-3 pouncing of St. Francis. Even though the season is barely at its halfway point, the squad is already running at championship caliber form. The Wolverines are stronger, deeper and closer than they have been in years class. This season, they will stop at nothing less than a championship.
Everyone on our team is working to win a championship, and we all believe we’re going to do it.— Jed Kronenberg '17
The squad has been led by a strong and talented crop of seniors who truly care about the team, more so than in years past.
“Tennis is a sport where individual tournaments and rankings matter more for college recruiting than high school, so our best players did not always treat high school tennis as seriously as they should have,” Kronenberg said. “However, since my class saw how heartbreaking losing two championship matches was, we all greatly care about the team and have gotten every- one really united into working for that goal of winning a championship.”
Simpson sees the impact that the senior’s leadership is having on the team.
“Our senior leadership is the best it’s been in at least three years, as [Jed] Kronenberg ’17 and [Adam] Sraberg ’17 really care about this team,” he said. “There’s no senioritis with these guys.”
He specifically singled out Jacob Tucker ‘17 for the positive contributions he’s made to the team, not just on the court, but on the sidelines as well.
“He’s the loudest guy on the team and he likes to be the center of attention, and every team needs a guy like that,” Simpson said. “He is all about team. For him, it is all team first.”
But a team can’t win a championship with just strong seniors. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to win a championship as well. And this season, the village has been filled with the strongest freshman class the team has had in years, including nation- ally-ranked players David Arkow ‘20 and Timothy Li ‘20, who are ranked 13th and 27th in California, respectively.
“We have some of the best freshmen high school tennis players in the country on our team, which has helped us shore up some weakness in our lineup from last year’s down year,” he said.
Where Arkow brings his singles strength to the team, having beaten UCLA-bound seniors and other top players in the region, Li has developed on the doubles court, pairing with Kronenberg to create a nearly unbeatable duo. The bond between the freshmen and seniors is stronger than it’s been in years past, especially because the freshmen aren’t being treated like freshmen often are.
“In feels good to be a freshman on the team and to know you’re a part of a special group,” Arkow said. “On the team, nobody really cares about what grade you’re in but more about what you can contribute to the team.”
As the squad continues to keep their league win streak in mind, they believe the current freshmen will be able to carry on the tradition and continue to build the legacy.
“The freshman class has a chance to be the most successful tennis class ever at the school, and can hopefully lead us to four straight CIF championships and maybe even the All-American trophy that we almost got this year,” Kronenberg said.
Even if the freshmen have the capability to lead the team in the future, though, the current seniors still want to make their mark in the most concrete way they can, which for them means a championship. The current seniors have played in two championship games in three years, losing narrowly in both.
This year, they aren’t willing to do the same. The seniors who have watched their teammates cry on court, who have endured the silent bus rides home, and who themselves have felt the pain of being so close, yet so far, aren’t willing to do it again. The squad realizes that this year, the championship is theirs to lose. If they continue how they’re playing now, they’re in good shape. If they stay healthy, they’re in good shape.
“It’s all mental,” Tucker said. “We have more talent than any other team in the Southern Section, so as long as we stay mentally tough and we stay motivated, we’ll get our rings.”
For Simpson, winning a championship isn’t about him so much as it is about the seniors on the team.
“I’ve watched [all the seniors] since before middle school, and they have been hugely loyal to me and to the program,” he said. “For me, it’s really more about the guys.”
And the guys are going all in. They’re ready to win. They want to win. They want to go out with a bang.
Nothing would be a better graduation present than winning. I just want to win so badly, and I believe we are going to do it.— Jed Kronenberg '17