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Corona del Mar’s Niels Hoffmann, University’s doubles capture CIF tennis titles

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CLAREMONT — Redemption and a sibling legacy. A rare combination of titles born from friendship and team-oriented goals.

Orange County’s boys tennis delivered the compelling storylines as it dominated the CIF-SS individual championships Wednesday at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

Corona del Mar’s Niels Hoffmann joined his brother Bjorn as a section singles champion while University’s James MacDonald and SangHyuk Im captured an All-Orange County doubles final.

The county claimed its first sweep of the CIF-SS singles and doubles titles since 2013.

Hoffmann, a junior committed to USC, needed just over an hour to defeat Cal Poly SLO commit Sean Ferguson of Peninsula 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

That’s the same winning score that Hoffmann’s brother Bjorn posted for Corona del Mar in his championship match in 2016 against future ATP player Alex Kuperstein of Palm Desert.

“That’s crazy,” Hoffmann said of the matching scores. “(Bjorn) is a great mentor. He’s more like a friend mentor. Someone who will tell you the news but also be able to share it with you in a really loving and close way.”

Hoffmann’s brother Nik, who also played tennis at Corona del Mar, supported from the stands Wednesday. He watched his youngest brother use a powerful forehand to earn some redemption for a runner-up finish to MacDonald at The Ojai Tournament earlier this season.

“A little bit of redemption and a little bit of a second chance to come back with more focus and maybe a few more tools,” Hoffmann said of the victory.

Some of those tools surfaced in the semifinals Wednesday as Hoffmann defeated New Mexico-bound Avery Tallakson of Woodbridge 7-5, 6-2 after trailing 5-2 in the first set.

Corona del Mar coach Jamie Gresh guided Bjorn before Niels and noted their important similarities. Bjorn played four years at Cal before finishing at UC Irvine.

“The love for tennis. The passion to improve,” Gresh said of their brothers’ common thread. “They’re both tall and lanky. That’s a good tennis build. I think Niels is a great mover. He played really great in the final today. I thought he brought his A-level game.”

In the doubles final, MacDonald and Im defeated Canyon’s new combination of Steve Nguyen and Matias Almeiea 6-4, 6-4.

MacDonald displayed his powerful serve, estimated at about 115 mph by coaches, while Im showed crafty ground strokes.

MacDonald added the doubles title to a Ojai singles title, a rare combination in high school tennis. The Harvard-commit also helped the Trojans claim the CIF-SS Open and SoCal regional team titles.

“How much more hardware is there?” University coach John Kessler said of MacDonald. “We’ve had some darn good players but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player who can serve like he serves.”

MacDonald said he decided to play doubles to round out his resume and because of his connection with Im.

“After Ojai, I wanted to get a doubles title as well,” MacDonald said. “(Sang and I) just know each other very well and are very good friends. We have very good chemistry. I think that is our biggest strength.”

Im claimed his second straight doubles title. He teamed with Konrad Walter-Wu last season to beat Hoffmann and Jack Cross in the finals.

“Back to back is a really huge accomplishment,” Im said. “I (like) that I have a partner who I can talk to during the match.”

Nguyen, a Navy commit, and Almeiea, a transfer from Chicago, joined forces in their run to the Crestview League title. They became the first Canyon doubles team to reach the final since 2005.

“It was a good decision (to unite) and we made a good run,” Nguyen said. “It was really fun.”

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