Already staking his claim as one of two Madras boys tennis players to qualify for state in the last decade-plus, Obed Eriza had only one goal for his senior season: get back to the big stage.
Last Wednesday, on day two of the Special District 2 championships in Prineville, Eriza beat Will Dutil of Estacada in straight sets. In the decisive match for a state berth, Eriza played Cascade's Sam Anthony, who was battling the stomach flu.
In somewhat anticlimatic fashion, Anthony forfeited after the first set, which Eriza won 6-1.
Now that he has advanced, however, he is finding it hard to summon motivation. Part of that has to do with being an underdog in a tournament full of state veterans.
But perhaps more so, is the newfound position he's found himself in as a singles player. When he made it to state as a sophomore on a doubles team with Jered Pichette, the solidarity of a teammate kept him going.
"When I was in doubles, I had someone to play for," Eriza said. "Basically, I didn't want to let my partner down — in that case it was Jered."
Eriza now finds himself on his own. He expected to face a No. 1 or 2 seed right off the bat at state, but drew a relatively fortunate matchup against North Bend senior Jacob Gage, who is seeded fourth.
A few of Eriza's teammates, particularly on the doubles courts, had good chances of state berths, but none of them made it to the semifinals.
Ryan Leriche and Eric Sullivan were one match away from doing so after beating a team from Estacada, 6-1, 6-4. But, in the quarterfinals match, Leriche and Sullivan came up one match shy of state, taking Jed Kizziar and Jacob Gurney of Sisters to three sets before losing, 6-4, 2-6, 4-6.
Senior Omar Dominguez and junior Brandon Salgado took Cascade's Michael Biddington and Peyton Hunt to a third set in the round of 16, though they would eventually lose to the Cascade duo 8-6, 5-7, 3-6.
Seniors Deon Culpus and Rafael Giron-Patt lost to Cascade's Daneil Suelzle and Yannik Hulbert in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
Elsewhere in singles action, Colton Goss was eliminated from the tournament Wednesday in Prineville after losing to North Marion's Elvis Gomez in three sets, 4-6, 6-1, 5-7. Nate Stovall also took his opponent, Easton Crist of Cascade, to three sets Wednesday, but ultimately lost by a score of 5-7, 6-1, 3-6.
For the White Buffalos to get all but one of its varsity players — Jeremy Burgos, who matched up with Molalla's Ramon Lema in a blind draw — past the opening round of districts was an accomplishment in itself.
Even more so, the closeness of this group of seniors was felt throughout the season, especially during the wins and losses of the district tournament.
"Even if the outcome wasn't as good as we thought it would (be), they still were celebrating, mourning each other's losses and encouraging them," Madras boys head coach Margaret Kincaid said.
Madras will have to replace a lot of seniors next season. But, in the meantime, one of its own, Eriza, has one last shot at a state run.
Eriza will face No. 4-seeded Gage in the opening round Friday at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Semifinals and finals matches are on Saturday.