Lake Oswego doubles teams pace district tennis championship
The Lakers dropped the hammer.
The Lake Oswego girls tennis team, facing the Three Rivers League's best at the 2018 district tournament — held May 7-9 at Portland Tennis Center — captured three of the tournament's doubles berths to state, grabbed second in the singles draw and won the tournament with 66 points to easily eclipse second-place Lakeridge's 46.5 and third-place West Linn's 46.
As was the case last year, the Lakers overwhelmed the field behind the strength of their powerful doubles teams, that group again led by the senior duo of Melisha Dogra and Anna Lowy. The top-seeded Dogra and Lowy won their second straight TRL title on May 9, defeating two of their teammates — second-seeded senior Ally Hock and junior Phoebe Walsh — 6-0, 6-1 in the championship.
"We had gone the whole tournament without losing a game until the very end of the second set (in the championship), but we were really happy with how we played," said Dogra, herself a former TRL singles champion. "We were just really consistent and focused the whole tournament, which was good."
Lowy credited their overwhelming success at district to their experience over the course of the regular season.
"This year, we actually played together during the season," she said. "Last year, it was kind of a last-minute thing so (this year) we ended up having a lot more practice and matches under our belts so it was good."
Next up, Dogra, Lowy — they were second at state last year — and the rest of the Lakers' state qualifiers will compete in the Class 6A state tournament, which opens Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Babette Horenstein Tennis Center (formerly Tualatin Hills) in Beaverton.
Dogra and Lowy ran off four straight 6-0, 6-0 wins to open their tournament, starting with a sweep of Canby's Sailer McRobbie and Karly Bierma in round one, then following with three more of the same, beating Tigard's Lucy Yusem and Anna Billings in round two, Josie Rutschman and Abby Ramer of Sherwood in the quarterfinals, and fourth-seeded Diana Krischenko and Hannah Myers of Canby in the semifinals.
That set up, for the second straight year, a matchup against the talented Hock and Walsh in the title contest. Hock and Walsh, state quarterfinalists a year ago, worked hard and played well in the finale, but there was just no stopping Dogra and Lowy.
"Playing our own teammates is always fun," Lowy said. "We've really worked on a lot of the techniques of where to go in the patterns of play against doubles teams."
"We knew it was our teammates, but we knew how to win the points and make the shot so we were doing that regardless of who else was over the net," Dogra added.
While Hock and Walsh fell short in the title match, they were good as gold until then, winning four consecutive matches in straight sets. They started by beating Naomi Gomez and Camryn Gardner of Sherwood 6-0, 6-0, then following with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Elyse Burton and Darci Chamberlin of Tualatin, a 6-1, 6-2 win over Andrea Zanavich and Abby McGair of St. Mary's in their quarterfinal, and a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of teammates Arielle Bloom and Julia Yazhari in their semi.
Bloom and Yazhari, unseeded in the tournament, won a spot at state by beating three straight foes at district, including a 6-4, 5-7, 6-0 win over Lakeridge's Kristin Wong and Sophie Lowy in round two, and a 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Tigard's Nicole Mazzeo and Ali Dreves in the quarterfinals.
The Lakers were tough in singles, too, with freshman Mariam Nechiporuk winning four straight times to reach the tournament championship. There, however, she ran into reigning TRL and Class 6A singles champion Lizzy Stevens of Tigard, and the Tigard sophomore used her powerful serve and consistency to beat Nechiporuk 6-1, 6-0.
"She's just really consistent and she's a lot different from a lot of the players I played during the regular season so it's a big change-up," Nechiporuk said. "She just hits really well."
None of that final, however, took anything away from Nechiporuk's successful run in her first district tournament. The tournament's third seed, Nechiporuk opened with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Sherwood's Analisa DuFrene, beat West Linn's Gretel Rajamoney 6-1, 6-0 in round two, knocked off Tualatin's Autumn Lewis 6-4, 6-4 in her quarterfinal, then fought her way past second-seeded Lakeridge senior Lilly Stephens — last year's district runner-up and a 2017 state quarterfinalist — 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in the semifinals.
"There's just such a variety of players and different skill levels so I think that you (have to) play so many different players you learn how to play against different skill levels of people," Nechiporuk said.
That set up her finale against Stevens, and while Nechiporuk didn't get the result she wanted, she was satisfied with her efforts at district.
"I'm pretty happy with how I played," she said. "I think that Lizzy's a really good player so that even though I didn't get a lot of points off of her, it was still a good last match."
Stephens and Tualatin's Jensen Barnes also advanced to state after reaching the semifinals. Stephens kicked off her tournament with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Canby's Claire Wright, swept West Linn's Hannah Vedder 6-0, 6-0, then raced past Tualatin's Averi Lewis 6-2, 6-0 in her quarterfinal.