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Smith defeated Putnam's Perry Bradley-Bender 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in last Wednesday's Northwest Oregon Conference championships at Parkrose High School

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - La Salle Prep's Ashley Smith sends the ball back over the net during her semifinal match with Wilsonville's Madeleine Klein at last Wednesday's NWOC tennis championships at Parkrose High.Top-seeded Ashley Smith of La Salle Prep refused to wilt in the heat of the battle Wednesday.

If anything, she took her tennis game to another level.

Smith bounced back from a rough start to score a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory Wednesday over Putnam's Perry Bradley-Bender and claim the girls singles title at Northwest Oregon Conference district tennis championships at Parkrose High School.

Parkrose's Ikatonga Camila-Napa'a and Maria Moreno won the doubles title by injury default over La Salle Prep's Claudia Kong and Nina Pham in qualifying for the OSAA Class 5A tennis championships beginning Friday at the Portland Tennis Center.

Smith breezed through her first two matches on Monday but got tested at times through Wednesday's final three rounds on a day when the temperature peaked at 79 degrees.

The day started with Smith winning 6-3, 6-2 over Wilsonville's Elle Berry in the quarterfinals, and then she won 6-4, 6-0 over Wilsonville's Madeleine Klein in the semis, setting the stage for her showdown with Bradley-Bender.

In the first set, Bradley-Bender went from trailing 3-2 to winning 6-3.

The second set was tied 3-3 when Smith held serve in the seventh, won a break point in the eighth game, and then held serve again, closing out a long, drawn-out set that took 45 minutes to play.

"The second set, I just tried to bring back some energy into it, which was a little tough, but I started to feel a little bit better," Smith said. "Toward the end, I started even attacking a little bit harder and mixing up the serve and the forehand and that's what got me through the second set."

"By the third set, we were both pretty tired, so it was kind of the same as the second set, just bringing that energy and staying with it all the way and never giving up."

Tied at 2-2 in the third set, Smith broke Bradley-Bender in the fifth game to make it 3-2, starting a four-game blitz that ended with Bradley-Bender driving a forehand back into the net on match point.

"I've played Ashley quite a bit now and she's really a fun player to play against," Bradley-Bender said. "Even though I'm disappointed that I lost, I'm so glad that I got to play her and I still had a fun match.

"My game plan was to try to run her around, wear her down, and get some strong serves in, and I think I did that for the most part. I don't know if I started to slack a little after the first set, but I got down on myself after I started missing a few shots. I really wanted to win that one."

Smith, who also competes as a thrower on the Falcons' track and field team, said Wednesday's final match tested not only her physical stamina but also her mental toughness.

"When you can feel your body starting to fall apart, you've got to dig in deeper and be indomitable in that," Smith said. "You can never for a second think they you will lose. You have to always push forward as if you're going to win.

"I was more willing to attack in the second and third sets. When I was powering the forehand, that brought back that second wave of energy that I needed and brought back some confidence, and that carried from the second set into the third set and through the end."

In the boys tournament, Wilsonville's Jack Roche defeated Hillboro's Huan Tran 6-1, 6-1 in the singles finals, while La Salle Prep's Nico Hey and Wade Nichols defeated Wilsonville's Zach Brehm and Nate Ogden 6-2, 6-4 to clinch the doubles title.

Other state qualifiers for La Salle Prep included freshman Christian Olson in singles, seniors Kyle Schraner and Evan Lee in doubles, and seniors Noah Blaser and Ryan Shaw in doubles.

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