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Sunset's Partch performs well under pressure

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset's Nicole Partch beat Alohas Vinet Gleva 6-1, 6-1 on Monday to help the Apollos down the Warriors.

Given a shot to strut her stuff as Sunset’s No. 1 girls singles’ player, Nicole Partch did not wane or waver.

Normally the Apollos’ second-ranked player, Partch was moved up to Sunset’s top position against Aloha’s Vineta Gleba because of a last-second injury scratch to Michelle Tai.

Playing at such a prestigious spot in a Metro district that’s peppered with state-caliber competitors did little to prevent Partch from dispatching Gleva in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1 on Monday.

“I tried to be consistent,” said Partch. “I hit the ball consistently, tried to make her miss and do the best I could. It was really windy, so I had to get the ball in and not hit it too hard.”

With Tai out for the next couple weeks to rest a sore rotator cuff, Partch gets to take on Lincoln, Jesuit and Westview’s No. 1’s in successive fashion.

“It made me more confident going on into the rest of the season,” said Partch. “It made me feel really good because I had to step in and play. I felt like I had to step up my game a little bit because I’ve seen (Gleba) play before, and she’s really good. I just had to focus on getting the ball in and playing a nice match.”

Gleba was confident going up against Partch, but said she just needs to work on her mental game a little bit more. Gleba and Partch engaged in a series of error-free rallies that made for moments of entertaining tennis, with each competitor picking up confidence and points along the way.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha's Vineta Gleva just began playing tennis three years ago, but has moved up to the Warriors top spot on Alohas ladder.

“Today, I liked my accuracy,” said Gleba. “There were a couple sets where I wasn’t as accurate, but the rest of the sets were for the most part. I was also able to move (Partch) from sideline to sideline.”

Winning more Metro matches than last season sits atop Gleba’s list of goals this year. And, since it’s her final season, the senior relishes the good times on the court playing against some of the players in the state. While many of the Metro’s best singles’ participants started playing as kids, Aloha just took to tennis three years ago as freshman. Gleba’s rapidly shifted into the Warriors’ top slot, a highly competitive spot to be in when it comes to fighting for district entitlement.

“I enjoy the game of tennis,” said Gleba. “I love the thrill of hitting the perfect shot, rallying with my opponent and finishing it off with a winner. There were some good rallies (with Partch). I enjoyed those. I love the game of tennis, so that’s what keeps me going.”

The large gathering of curious Sunset students lining the surrounding fences distracted Bona Yang and Julie Levelle— the Apollos’ top doubles team — at the start of the their match with Aloha’s Avanka Dias and Angie Tran. Yet, once the crowd dispersed, the Apollo combo calmed down, shaking off a close 6-4 first set with a commanding 6-0 second triumph for the victory. Additionally, Levelle said she and Yang had to lift their skill sets collectively to avoid the upset.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha's Angie Tran and her partner Avanka Davis stayed close in the first set against Sunset.

“We got our focus back and started to play smarter,” said Levelle. “Usually when we don’t teams that aren’t as great, we don’t play as well either. But, when we play better people, we play better.”

“We were more confident in ourselves,” said Yang. “We knew we could play better.”

Last year, Levelle and Yang started playing doubles midway through the season and immediately clicked. Their on-court chemistry and harmonizing games equaled each other out, prompting a late-season run all the way to the Metro district championship.

“It’s easy to play with (Yang),” said Levelle. “I can be more aggressive and she’s usually the more consistent one. We pick each other up when the other one’s frustrated.”

“She knows how I play and I know how she plays,” added Yang. “We talk to each other a lot and encourage each other during the games.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset's Julie Levelle and Bona Yang dominated the second set against Aloha on Monday to take a 6-4, 6-0 decision on the road.

Following a first round loss at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center, Levelle and Yang worked their way back through the consolation bracket and won the consolation championship in the 100-degree humidity of the THTC bubble to take fourth place in the district.

“We’re not newbies anymore,” said Levelle. “I think that experience, just getting out there and playing at districts, will help us this season. We just have to start out on the right foot and keep our pace.”

“If we start losing, we keep losing,” said Yang. “Having that confidence and keeping our pace and spirits up are the biggest things.”

Dias and Tran might not have had the horsepower to house Levelle and Yang in the long run, but the Warrior combo maintained a cheery demeanor facing one of Metro’s top double teams.

“We just try to stay positive and giggly,” said Dias. “We always try and have a good attitude. This season we want to be Warriors and keep fighting. We want to do our best.”

Dias liked how she and Tran played in their first set, pushing Sunset a couple games in a commendable 6-4 loss. The duo’s groundstrokes were strong, Tran said, especially when the Apollos were launching hot-and-heavy serves.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha's Avanka Davis and Angie Tran celebrate a point during their doubles match against Sunset.

“I liked our volleys,” said Tran.

Dias said Aloha’s positive momentum dried up in the second set while Yang and Levelle found their groove.

“I don’t think we were that prepared,” said Dias. “I think we were just too excited to play. We usually do a lot better than this. We just weren’t in our zone.”



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