6A girls tennis — Newberg plays its best match of the year, but loses 10-9 on sets to rival McMinnville at home

After dispatching Hillsboro 7-1 April 15 to cap its first swing through the Pacific Conference schedule, the Newberg girls tennis team was eager to prove itself in a rematch versus McMinnville April 17.

That was apparent early on in the match, as the Tigers quickly won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, but in fitting fashion for the last league meeting between the longtime rivals, it was close throughout and came down to the final match of the day.

In fact, it seemed that the two teams didn’t want to stop playing as everyone gathered to watch as the last match of the day, No. 4 doubles, moved to three sets as the sun began to fade behind the Dundee SETH GORDON - Defending the net - Ashley Thompson hits a volley during her No. 2       doubles match versus McMinnville April 17. Thompson and partner Kaylee Pattullo earned a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory, but the Grizzlies won the match 10-9 on sets won after the two teams earned four matches apiece.

The Grizzlies held a 4-3 lead at that point, but Morgan Johnson and Naivit Velasquez won the first set over Julia Jacobucci and Veronica Marquez to give Newberg a chance to tie the match 4-4 and possibly win via a games-won tiebreaker.

To do that, Johnson and Velasquez needed to win in straight sets. Those hopes, however, were dashed when McMinnville rallied to take the second set 6-4, but the Newberg duo took care of business in the third to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

That gave the Grizzlies the win 10-9 based on sets won, but despite losing in such frustrating fashion, the Tigers still took great pride in what was their best performance of the season.

Head coach Jon Halstead was even more impressed because the team had not been able to practice outside the day before due to rain.

“I told the girls that I thought they played exceptionally well today all the way around,” Halstead said. “We had some really good hands today and some great net play. There are always things to work on, but overall it just shows our progress from the first match losing to them 2-6.”

As fellow senior Kassie Grove made quick work of her match at No. 2 singles, Sam Russo was methodical in her 6-4, 6-3 win over Caitlan Baker at No. 1, avenging a loss from the first league match of the year.

“I think both of them played with a lot of energy and thought they were on a mission, I guess,” Halstead said. “(Grove’s) hard work over the course of last summer and spring break is obvious. (Russo) has gotten better, too. From the first match playing Baker to this match is night and day.”

McMinnville evened the score by winning comfortably at No. 3 and 4 singles, although Ashley Johnson was much improved in the second set of her 6-2, 7-5 loss to Rachel Legard at No. 3.

The Grizzlies prevailed 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles, but that was offset by Kaylee Pattullo and Ashley Thompson’s 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 2.

Melissa Lattig and Rachel Thompson put up a strong fight at No. 3 doubles, but eventually fell 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.

The Tigers will get a second chance to show their mettle Thursday when they host Tualatin, who handed Newberg it’s other league loss, also by a 6-2 score.

“We’ve improved and (we’re) going to show everybody else what we can do,” said. “When we get to the district tournament, we’ll be ready.”

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