West Linn boys third at 6A state tennis; La Salle boys finish second
The Three Rivers League's best — and the Northwest Oregon Conference's best — boys tennis players earned their places among the state's best, too.
Those players proved it at the Class 6A and 5A state tennis tournaments, held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 19-21, at Portland Tennis Center and Babette Horenstein Tennis Center in Beaverton.
Class 6A tournament
After three days and almost 100 matches in Beaverton, West Linn's boys stepped up to place third at state — their best finish in almost two decades — while Lake Oswego tied for fourth.
The complete team scoring included: Lincoln 21.5, Jesuit 19, West Linn 17, Lake Oswego 10, Sunset 10.
The Lions' saw their efforts headlined by junior Jax Ledwith and his third-place finish in the 6A singles draw. Ledwith, seeded fourth after winning the Three Rivers League title, opened his tournament with a bye, won two straight matches to reach the semifinals, then came back from a loss to win again and place third.
"I was happy to get third place and know I was supporting my team too," Ledwith said.
After his bye, Ledwith won twice while losing just four games, then fell 6-0, 6-2 to second-seeded Tannor Bindor of Beaverton in his semi. Undaunted, Ledwith came back strong to beat seventh-seeded Lincoln senior Alex Dinkov 4-6, 6-1, 3-0 (ret.) to grab third.
"I tried not to lose a lead. (I) kept pushing when I was up in the score and fighting when I was down," Ledwith said. "That mentality really helped me in the third-place match."
In doubles play, Lake Oswego senior Alec Beechem and junior partner Cooper Whittington entered the tournament unseeded, but left in considerably better shape after playing their way into the state championship before finally settling for second place.
"I think the odds Cooper and I were up against truly encapsulate what an underdog story is — being unfavored, having little to no chance, but absolutely having nothing to lose," Beechem said. "Although we didn't get the result we wanted, I think we proved that anything is possible."
Whittington and Beechem won four straight times to earn their berth in the finals — including wins over the third, fifth and sixth seeded teams — before finally dropping a 6-2, 6-0 decision to the second-seeded Sunset team of juniors Parsa Nasri and Kei Watanabe in the state championship. They came back from that defeat to beat sixth-seeded Jesuit juniors Yohan Pandya and Ethan Tran for a second time in the tourney, this time by a 6-2, 6-4 margin.
"Words can't describe what Cooper and I accomplished. Not many can say they defeated three seeds on their way to a state final unseeded," Beechem said. "The key to our success undoubtedly was the support from our team and families. Without them, we never would've been able to make it far in this tournament."
Fourth-seeded Lakeridge seniors Tyler Pyle and Nathan Mittlestadt were strong, too, opening with a bye, then winning twice to reach the semifinals before being derailed by Nasri and Watanabe 6-4, 6-4. In the third-place match, Pyle and Mittlestadt dropped a 6-2, 6-4 decision to Pandya and Tran.
In the 5A tournament, La Salle earned its place among the state's best, finishing tied for second place with North Bend with eight points each. Crescent Valley took the tourney title with 16.5 points, while Ashland placed fourth with seven points.
Sophomore singles player Aidan McBride, the top seed after previously winning the NWOC title, won three straight times to claim the 5A crown, finishing the tournament with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory over fourth-seeded Churchill junior Carsen Luna in the championship.
"I felt like I played great," McBride said. "I was consistent with my shots and was strategic — sometimes. I felt great about the win. A little frustrated that I lost that second set, but relieved that I got that third set. I think the key to my success was my determination."
In the process, McBride became the Falcons' first state singles champion since 2011 when Luis Pineda won the 4A/3A/2A/1A crown.
Wilsonville senior Ben Pinoli made his mark in singles, too, winning twice to reach the semifinals before falling to McBride 6-2, 6-0. He then dropped a 6-1, 6-0 decision in the third-place match against second-seeded Crescent Valley sophomore Noah Curtis.
In doubles play, Wilsonville sent two teams into the quarterfinals — senior Jeven Lundberg and junior Cameron Little, and sophomores Lucas Anderson and Clayton Troha — while La Salle's top-seeded sophomores Eldon Nichols and Breslin Nichols also reached the quarters.
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