The Pacers were ready.
The Lakers were, too.
So when it came time for the 2019 Class 6A state tennis tournament — held Thursday, May 16, through Saturday, May 18, at the Babette Horenstein Tennis Center in Beaverton — Lakeridge's and Lake Oswego's best took their best shots at the state's best.
In the end, the Pacers played their way to third place with 10.5 points, while Lake Oswego ended the tournament in fifth place with eight points. Jesuit won the team title — the Crusaders' fourth straight and 11th in the past 12 seasons — with 35 points, followed by Lincoln at 27, Lakeridge at 10.5, Sprague at 10, Lake Oswego at 8, West Linn and Wilson at 6, Central Catholic at 5.5, Westview and Summit at 4, McMinnville at 2.5, Barlow, David Douglas, Grants Pass, Newberg, Sheldon and South Medford at 2, Roseburg at 1 and Clackamas at .5.
"We were very happy about finishing third," said Lakeridge senior Jack Ninteman, who placed fourth in singles. "Even though we couldn't pass Lincoln or Jesuit, it's always great to place in state."
Likewise, the Lakers were happy with their efforts at state.
"The fifth-place finish will let the other tennis schools know that we're a contender," said Laker sophomore Connor Whittington, who reached the singles quarterfinals. "Hopefully, next year we will be able to get more guys to state so everyone feels more involved in the state competition."
"(It was a) big improvement from last year and I'm sure everybody is excited," added LO junior Gabe Horwitz, another singles quarterfinalist.
The Pacers built their success on Ninteman's fourth-place finish, a quarterfinal berth by the doubles team of senior Andrew Slominski and sophomore Colton Lowy, and another tournament appearance by juniors Ethan Davies and Dante Sterling.
In singles, the fourth-seeded Ninteman opened with a bye, beat TRL foe Logan Thompson 6-1, 6-3 in round two (avenging a loss from the TRL district tournament), then won a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 battle over eighth-seeded Lincoln senior Allen Song in his quarterfinal.
"In the early rounds, I was pretty nervous and I don't think I played my best tennis, but that's usually how it goes," Ninteman said. "I was able to find a way to win without having my best game."
That set up a semifinal battle against Jesuit junior Peter Murphy — the two-time defending state champion — and while Ninteman dropped a 6-2, 6-0 decision there, he was grateful for the chance to play the best (Murphy went on to win his third consecutive state crown).
"In the semifinals, I think I definitely had some missed opportunities," he said. "Peter played great and I couldn't afford to make many mistakes."
In the ensuing third-place match, Ninteman played well again but dropped a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 decision to third-seeded Lincoln senior Avi Shugar.
"In the third-place match, I was really happy with how I played," said Ninteman, who will play next year at Arizona. "Obviously, I wish that I could've won, but it was still a great way to end my high school career."
In doubles, the third-seeded Lowry and Slominski — the TRL champs — opened with a bye, then beat Newberg's Jesh Pintor and Marcus Hopkins 6-0, 6-0 to earn their quarterfinal berth. But Jesuit's sixth-seeded Charlie Law and Wyatt Warrington broke through to win there, ending the Pacers' tournament with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 decision.
Davies and Sterling — quarterfinalists a year ago but hampered by Davies' pulled abdomen muscle this spring — lost their opening match 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to Jesuit's seventh-seeded Connor Barnett and Spencer Barnett (they eventually finished third), then posted two straight pro-set victories in consolation before falling to Central Catholic's eighth-seeded Gus Krauel and Parker Reno-Zinn 8-2 in the consolation semis.
Lake Oswego Boys
In singles play, Horwitz and Whittington followed similar paths at state, each winning two times before falling short against top-seeded opponents in their semifinals.
Horwitz, the TRL champion, opened with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Ristan Habtemarian of Central Catholic, swept South Medford's Elliott Hikade 6-0, 6-0 in round two, then ran into Murphy in his quarterfinal, falling 6-0, 6-1.
"I played pretty well, but Peter was too consistent and eventually I made the mistake," Horwitz said. "As a whole, I'm pretty happy. I made it as far as I had imagined, (it was just) unfortunate I had to play the reigning champion in the quarters."
Likewise, Whittington opened with back-to-back wins, beating McKay's Micah Tran 6-0, 6-1 and Wilson's Drew Wiley 6-4, 6-1, before dropping a 6-2, 6-0 decision to second-seeded Judson Blair of Sprague in the quarterfinals.
"My last match in the tournament was tough, but it's always fun playing against someone when you're the underdog," Whittington said. "My tournament went as well as I could have hoped and I was able to make it to the quarters because I had a really good draw."