Lake Oswego's Gabe Horwitz wins Three Rivers League singles tennis title
The only surprise at last week's Three Rivers League boys district tennis tournament was if you weren't surprised by what happened.
In boys singles play, top-seeded Lakeridge senior Jack Ninteman — the reigning TRL champion — was upset in the tournament semifinals. Second-seeded Lake Oswego sophomore Connor Whittington, likewise, saw his title hopes end in the semis. And fourth-seeded West Linn junior Logan Thompson — last year's TRL runner-up and the player who beat Ninteman — fell short in the championship match, losing to third-seeded Lake Oswego junior Gabe Horwitz.
The excitement and the upsets just kept coming in doubles play, too, where second-seeded Lakeridge senior Andrew Slominski and sophomore Colton Lowry knocked off their top-seeded teammates — also the reigning TRL champs — juniors Ethan Davies and Dante Sterling in the title contest.
And on the team front, West Linn walked away with the tournament title, racking up 43 points to secure victory and follow up their fourth straight unbeaten TRL regular season. The complete team scoring included: West Linn 43, Lake Oswego 36, Lakeridge 31.5, Tigard 12, Tualatin 9.5, Oregon City 6 and Canby 1.
The tournament was held Wednesday, May 8, Thursday, May 9, and Friday May 10, at Portland Tennis Center.
Next up, the TRL's top four singles finishers and doubles teams will play in the Class 6A state tournament, set for Thursday, May 16, Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, at the Babette Horenstein Tennis Center in Beaverton. Play begins at 8 a.m. the first two days and at 9:15 a.m. the third, with the doubles championship set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday and the singles final to follow at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The 2019 TRL singles draw was as unpredictable as could be, with Horwitz eventually claiming the tournament title by beating Thompson — one of his close friends — 7-6, 6-1 in Friday's title match at PTC.
"It feels pretty good," Horwitz said, adding that playing against Thompson made it even better. "I feel like it makes it more fun because if you lose, or if you win, you still know each other."
West Linn's Thompson, meanwhile, credited Horwitz's play on Friday, but also tied the loss — in part — to his lengthy 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win over Ninteman in 85-degree temperatures in the bubble at PTC on Thursday.
"I played pretty well (but) he was getting all my shots and hitting them back hard so I couldn't do anything off him," Thompson said, adding that his semi "was a tough match. It took all my energy out for today. My muscles were pretty sore."
Horwitz opened with a 6-1, 6-1 win over West Linn's Aiydan Pritchard, beat Lakeridge's Noah Beem 6-1, 6-0 in round two, dropped West Linn's Harry Winsper 6-1, 6-3 in his quarterfinal, then upset Whittington 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in his semi to win a berth in the final.
In the title match, Horwitz had to come through in a tiebreaker to win the first set, then rolled to victory in the second.
"I feel like the key was to make less errors and keep to his forehand because his backhand is really good," Horwitz said.
"We practice a lot together so I know him pretty well," Thompson said. "I just needed to play more aggressive."
Horwitz, Thompson, Ninteman — he beat Whittington 6-3, 6-0 to place third — and Whittington all qualified for the coming state tournament, with Ninteman seeded fourth and Horwitz sixth.
Ninteman opened his tournament with a trio of 6-0, 6-0 victories, beating Tigard's Diego Lopez in the first round, Tigard's Evan Riley in the second and West Linn's Andrew Walker in the quarterfinals. Those victories were followed by his semifinal heartbreaker against Thompson and his third-place win over Whittington.
In similar fashion, Whittington lost just one game in his first three matches, beating Lakeridge's Leandro Andrade 6-0, 6-0, Oregon City's David Engleman 6-0, 6-1 and West Linn's Aidan Showalter 6-0, 6-0 to reach his semifinal.
In doubles play, the Pacers' and Lions' best battled the tournament field for three straight days, with Lakeridge's top two teams eventually knocking off West Linn's top two teams in the semifinals to set up an all-Pacer finale on Friday.
While Davies and Sterling held the upper hand in experience against Slominski and Lowry — they reached the state quarterfinal last season — their talented teammates used Slominski's powerful serve and Lowry's skill at the net to win 6-4, 6-2.
"I didn't know what to expect. We played against each other before, but we hadn't played in a match like this one so it was cool how it ended out," Slominski said. "I was confident in myself and my teammate. I felt like we could pull it off."
"It was definitely a challenge, but we got through it," Lowry said. "His serve is great and it sets me up really well so we definitely play well together and we complement each other."
For their part, Sterling and Davies were disappointed with the loss, but determined to come back at state.
"They're tough because they've got big serves and they're very good vollyers. It's just tough to play against them," Sterling said.
"We needed to just focus on playing hyper-aggressive and put pressure on our opponents and move forward," Davies said, adding that, at state, "I'd like to get top four. It's a big goal — there's a lot of talent at state, yeah — but I think as long as we maintain and play aggressive and play smart, make returns, I think we have a great chance at beating a lot of these teams."
Lowry and Slominski opened with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Lake Oswego's Nick Detmer and Chris Di Re, took a default in round two, dumped West Linn's Toby Moos and Nick Robinson 6-0, 6-2 in their quarterfinal, then dropped third-seeded Grant Grainger and Riley Cook of West Linn 6-3, 6-3 in their semi.
Then, finally, Slominski and Lowry stepped up to take out Davies and Sterling in the finale.
"It's definitely interesting because you don't want to get too into it. You don't want them to feel bad, but also, we are here to win," Lowry said. "So you don't want to go too hard at them, but you need to win the match so it's kind of a mix."
"I think just being comfortable and trusting your teammate — that's probably the number one thing for doubles," Slominski said.
Davies and Sterling were nearly as good on the way to the final, starting with a quartet of straight-set wins that included a 6-2, 6-2 win over Lucas Nicholsen and Avery Betz of Tigard, a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Michael Schmidt ad Dylan Cochell of Oregon City in round two, a 6-4, 6-2 decision over West Linn's Thomas Lesser and Ryan Adelman in their quarterfinal, and a 7-5, 6-2 result over West Linn's Brian Wicklund and Cade Fernando.
In the title contest, however, Sterling and Davies just couldn't break through against Slominski and Lowry.
"In that last game, if we would have just made our returns, we would have broken their serve and then it could have been a different outcome, but we've still got state to look forward to," Sterling said.
"(The key was) really maintaining aggressiveness," Davies added. "The first set especially, we played way too passive."
Both West Linn teams also qualified for state, with Grainger and Cook beating Wicklund and Fernando 6-2, 6-3 to seal up third place.