Clackamas girls tennis finishes strong in pandemic-shortened season
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was nothing that could stop the Clackamas girls tennis team.
As it turns out, even having a year away from competition did very little to slow the Cavaliers.
Clackamas, which had won five straight Mt. Hood Conference titles before the pandemic wiped out the 2019 spring season, came back strong in 2021 and won almost everything once again.
The Cavaliers ended up going 7-0 in MHC play and 10-1 overall, their only loss coming to Sherwood without their top two players available.
"It was my first year of high school tennis and I really enjoyed the team atmosphere," said freshman Lauren Han, who went 6-0 at first singles. "It was fun representing Clackamas and supporting my other teammates."
"This year, we were able to get really close since the team was smaller," said sophomore Shanah Denham, the team's No. 2 singles player. "The whole team was so welcoming and supportive that everyone always had a good time. It was also fun because everyone was close in skill level making practice very fun and competitive."
"This would be the sixth straight (MHC title) if not for COVID-19," said Clackamas coach Satomi Tsumura, whose team also finished fourth in the state academically with a combined grade point average of 3.96. "Everyone really likes everyone, and they get along so well together. Just a very cohesive unit in every way, from the very best on down. Such an enjoyable ride with them all."
The Cavaliers capped their successful run by dominating the one-day season-ending tournament against Barlow, David Douglas and Central Catholic at Clackamas High School on Monday, May 17. The Cavaliers swept all four doubles draws in the four-team tournament and also won three of four in singles to run away with top honors.
Clackamas seniors Elise Kang and Katherine Perkins set the pace at first doubles, going unbeaten on the day to win the top doubles bracket.
"I think having a partner to help support me was really important this year," said Kang, who previously played singles. "Now that I play a lot of doubles, I have found more of the fun side of tennis that kind of got pushed aside when I only played singles. … Now I am not only playing for myself, but for her as well. I want to play well for both of us, and keep happy and have fun so that she can be happy and have fun, too."
"Our key to success was a strong mental game," said Perkins, who went unbeaten with Kang in doubles this year. "We both knew we had the skills — we just needed to trust them and not hold (anything) back. Elise always encouraged me to go for it, especially at the net. I appreciated this relationship with my partner. It allowed us to both play our tennis while working together as a team."
At the top of the singles ladder, Han mowed down the competition all day to finish her season unbeaten at 7-0.
"The key to my success is that I have so much tennis experience," Han said. "I've been playing competitively for 10 years at the local and national levels and have been in many pressure match situations; that allows me to handle high school-level tennis with ease."
Through the rest of the singles ladder, Denham lost in the second singles championship, while freshman Lana Saopraseuth took top honors at third singles and senior Kassidy Nguyen followed suit by winning at no. 4 singles.
"I really enjoyed being able to watch everyone play and being able to support them," said Denham, who went 6-3 in her first varsity season. "Usually when we play matches, I don't get to see the other first and second doubles and singles, but since other schools were there and our playing times were spread out, I was able to cheer and watch everyone play."
In the day's other doubles matches, Clackamas winners included: senior Meiling Masterson and junior Sophie Denham at second doubles; senior Kaitlyn Lee and freshman Kayla Saopraseuth at third doubles; and junior Heidi Thiele and sophomore Anh Khan at fourth doubles.
"Every year, district is something to look forward to and it was definitely disappointing that this year we wouldn't have that same experience," Kang said. "However, Monday's tournament allowed me to experience that excited team energy one last time."
"We were all eager to compete in any way we could this year," Perkins added. "It was rewarding to see all of my hard work and my teammates' hard work pay off with a strong performance."
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