Lake Oswego girls tennis wins Three Rivers League district title
The Lake Oswego girls tennis team faced a lot of uncertainty this year.
The Lakers — the three-time defending Class 6A state champions — entered the 2019 season under the leadership of first-year coach Dina Wood and without four mainstays from their 2018 title team.
Thus far, however, the Lakers have answered all the questions facing them magnificently. First, they rolled through the Three Rivers League without a loss, and last week, they cruised to victory in the TRL district tournament. Lake Oswego finished the three-day tournament — held Wednesday, May 8, Thursday, May 9, and Friday, May 10, at Portland Tennis Center — with 73 points to outdistance second-place West Linn's 65.5. The complete team scoring included: Lake Oswego 73, West Linn 65.5, Lakeridge 46, Tualatin 29, Tigard 21, Canby 17, St. Mary's 15.5 and Oregon City 10.
"Especially having a new coach, we were a little bit unsure if we were going to win again so it's definitely reassuring that even with a different coach, we can have success," said Lake Oswego junior Julia Lininger-White, the fourth-place finisher in girls singles.
"It's a great experience. Win or lose, it was really fun," said Lake Oswego freshman Rebecca Prassas, the third-place finisher in singles.
Lake Oswego sophomore Mariam Nechiporuk won the TRL singles title over Tualatin's Jensen Barnes on Friday, while Lakeridge's Gigi Davies and Sophie Lowy took the doubles crown over West Linn's Alyx Burkhartzmeyer and Caroline Grainger.
Also headed to state in singles are Lake Oswego's Prassas and Lininger-White, and in doubles, third-place finishers Nicole Mazzeo and Ali Dreves of Tigard and the fourth-place team of Arielle Bloom and Julia Yazhari of Lake Oswego.
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 11 a.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday and at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, with the doubles championship set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday and the singles final to follow at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
"Last year, there were lots of nerves, I guess because it was my first time around," Nechiporuk said. "Hopefully, it will be a little bit better this year, and I hope as a team, we can do just as well."
The Lakers were absolutely dominant in singles, finishing first, third and fourth to take three of the TRL's four berths to state, with Nechiporuk winning her first league crown with a 6-3, 7-6 decision over the top-seeded Barnes. Nechiporuk was the TRL runner-up a year ago and the third-place finisher at the state tournament.
"I lost to Jensen during the (Three Rivers League) season so it was fun to come back and win," Nechiporuk said. "I really wanted to win. I know she's a really good player so it means a lot more. I wanted to come back and prove myself."
Nechiporuk did just that, but it wasn't easy in the finale. After taking the first set 6-3, she traded a series of service breaks in the latter part of the second set, including a key break that tied the set at 6-6 and forced a tiebreaker.
There, Barnes took an early 3-2 lead before Nechiporuk battled back to victory, closing her win with a low forehand over the net that Barnes could not return.
"In the tiebreaker, I just tried to keep the score out of my mind and play it like it's a rally where you're just trying to win the point instead of adding more pressure to it," Nechiporuk said. "I was kind of just taking it one point at a time."
While Nechiporuk was seeded just third — behind Barnes and St. Mary's Maria Quisling — she rolled through the tournament in impressive fashion, beating Oregon City's Kaylee Hamblin 6-0, 6-0, dropping Lakeridge's Taylor Hennelly 6-1, 6-0 in round two, ousting West Linn's Corinna Ounaphom 6-0, 6-3 in her quarterfinal and Prassas 6-1, 6-2 in her semi.
Prassas, likewise, made her first TRL tournament a keeper, going 4-1, upsetting Quisling in her quarterfinal and finishing third overall.
"It was good tournament," Prassas said. "Just making it to state kind of topped it off, but even if I hadn't, it was still a really good experience."
Prassas won her first two matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores, knocked off Quisling 6-4, 6-1 in her quarterfinal, then came back from her loss to Nechiporuk to beat Lininger-White 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 to finish third.
The fourth-seeded Lininger-White secured her berth at state after winning her first two matches in straight sets, then battling past Tualatin's Avery Lewis 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 in her quarterfinal.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it to state so I think I'm just happy that I was able to get in," Lininger-White said.
The doubles draw was a much more diverse affair, with teams from four different schools winning berths to state, that group led by Davies and Lowy, who posted a 6-1, 6-3 win over Grainger and Burkhartzmeyer in the title match.
"It was kind of like you don't even realize that it was over and you're like ready to play the next point," said Davies, a senior. "I think once we get off our adrenaline rush, it will feel great."
"We played the game that we know how to play and it worked out well for us," said Lowy, a sophomore. "They are a great team to play. We won against them both times (in league), but they were amazing, competitive matches."
Davies and Lowy, the second seeds, lost just five games in their first three victories, then powered past Mazzeo and Dreves 7-5, 6-4 in their semifinal. Grainger and Burkhartzmeyer — they upset the top-seeded Bloom and Yazhari in their semi — provided another test in the championship, but Davies and Lowy were up to it.
"We kind of went into it expecting to play LO in the finals, but those West Linn girls battled," Lowy said. "They're a great team."
"I was expecting to play LO, but West Linn played really, really well today," Davies added, noting that they needed three sets to beat the West Linn duo both times in TRL play. "They played a great match."
Bloom and Yazhari, meanwhile, won three straight times in straight sets before being upset by the fourth-seeded Burkhartzmeyer and Grainger 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals. The LO duo then dropped a 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 decision to Mazzeo and Dreves in the third-place match.