Lakeridge boys tennis steps up to win district crown
The Lakeridge boys tennis team washed over the 2018 Three Rivers League district tournament like a blue wave.
The Pacers, facing the TRL's best at the district tournament — held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Portland Tennis Center — captured the tournament's singles title, took the doubles crown and also took second in the TRL's doubles draw.
Together, those efforts gave the Pacers the district crown with 34 points, followed by regular season champion West Linn's 31, Lake Oswego at 24.5, Tualatin at 14.5, Tigard at 13, Newberg at 12.5, Sherwood at 2.5 and Canby at 1.
Leading the way for the Pacers at district was junior singles player Jack Ninteman. Ninteman, a 2017 TRL doubles champ and this year's top-seeded singles player, made his first foray into singles a huge success, winning five straight matches without losing a set — indeed, losing just two games total — en route to his tournament championship.
"I've never been the one seed in any tournament so I was real nervous going into it," he said. "Even the first and second rounds, I just tried to play smart, not to go much for too much because anything could happen. I knew that on any given day, I could lose to anyone."
Ninteman's play, however, made sure that he lost almost nothing at district. He opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over West Linn's Andrew Walker, followed with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Tigard's Jake Nguyen, then finally dropped his first game in a 6-0, 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Lake Oswego's Alex Best.
Undeterred, Ninteman came back to sweep past Tualatin's Will Havenar 6-0, 6-0 in his semifinal, then came back with yet another dominating performance in the championship, rolling past third-seeded West Linn sophomore Logan Thompson 6-0, 6-1 to secure his first TRL singles crown.
After his win, Ninteman said that his preparation and his fast start played huge roles in his victory.
"I warmed up for 45 minutes before I came (to Portland Tennis Center) today, just with my dad, because I wanted to get focused," he said. "I had a huge focus on getting out fast because I knew that both of us at the beginning were going to be nervous. It's just natural, so I wanted to get out and loosen up and get up a few games to take the stress off."
Needless to say, Ninteman did all that in spades, using his powerful serve, big forehand and ability to finish points to knock off Thompson.
"I felt good. I just had a really good day," he said. "I just wanted to come out with high energy and keep it going."
In addition to Ninteman and Thompson, the TRL will also send Havenar and Lake Oswego sophomore Gabe Horwitz on to the Class 6A state tournament, set for May 17-19 at the Babette Horenstein Tennis Center (formerly Tualatin Hills) in Beaverton.
Horwitz, the second seed, stepped up to win his first three matches at district, beating Canby's Spencer Doman 6-0, 6-0, Tualatin's Andrew Monkarsh 6-0, 6-2 and West Linn's Aidan Showalter 6-1, 6-2 before getting knocked off 6-0, 6-4 by Thompson in their semifinal.
In consolation play, Lakeridge freshman Colton Lowry knocked off freshman teammate Sammy Polliack 6-0, 6-0 to finish fifth.
The Pacers were even stronger in the doubles draw, and no Pacer team was stronger than top-seeded sophomores Ethan Davies and Dante Sterling. Sterling and Davies rolled to five consecutive straight-set victories, capping their tournament with a tough 6-3, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded teammates Erik Svoboda and Andrew Slominski in the championship.
"We were decently confident but we knew they were a solid team," Davies said. "They had four big wins so we were confident, but we knew we had to take this seriously. We knew this wasn't a match to take lightheartedly."
"We tried to just play our game and keep focused, keep doing what we've always done to get to this point in the tournament," Sterling said. "We were just trying to have fun and play our game and see how far we could go."
Davies and Sterling opened with a 6-0, 6-0, win over Canby's Austin Thompson and Owen Bradfute, dumped Tualatin's Bo Jackson and Jack Rose 6-1, 6-1 in the second round, then made it three straight with a 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal win over West Linn's Thomas Lesser and Nick Robinson.
They kept their momentum with a 6-1, 6-4 semifinal victory over Newberg's fourth-seeded Matt Weiler and Quentin Nigbur, before derailing Svoboda and Slominski in the title contest.
"It's just a little harder to play (against teammates)," Davies said. "Obviously, if we have an overhead, we're not going to peg them, but besides that, if I've got a poach, I'm going straight at their chest, the same place I always go. So we're pretty much the same as always."
"We had a practice match against them a couple of weeks back to prepare for district and had a lot of fun doing it," Sterling added. "It was a close match just like this one."
Slominski and Svoboda will join Davies and Sterling at state after a stellar district performance that saw them win four straight times before Wednesday's championship. They opened with a tough 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over West Linn's Brian Wicklund and Riley Cook, then caught fire to beat Tigard's Nick Portwood and Logan Jett 6-1, 6-0 in round two, third-seeded Alex Roark and Alex Chu of Lake Oswego 6-3, 6-4 in their quarterfinal, then upset second-seeded Justin Lawrence and Grant Grainger of West Linn 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 in their semi.