Tigers take another step toward contention
As the representatives of Newberg High School boys tennis, a pair of doubles teams entered state competition with confidence after a strong showing at Pacific Conference districts. Both duos came up short of a title run, but they showed promise and capped a quality season for a program on the rise.
Senior Quentin Nigbur and junior Michael Hopkins bowed out in the first round, losing to Brian Wicklund and Cade Fernando from West Linn. The final score was 6-1, 6-1, as the top doubles team from Newberg saw its season come to a frustrating end against one of the better programs in the state of Oregon.
NHS coach Dave Brown said he is looking on the bright side of what was a tough match.
"I think we played well, but we lost that match and those kids were just better than us," he said. "I'm proud of how our guys competed regardless. We just didn't play well."
Newberg's other doubles squad featured senior Jesh Pintor and freshman Marcus Hopkins, younger brother of Michael. That duo advanced with an upset win over Jimmy Laws and Brian Powell of Roseburg in the first round, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
"It was a good match, super even and super equal," Brown said. "It was good and I was happy for them to play in the second round against one of the better teams in state in Lakeridge."
Pintor and the younger Hopkins fell 6-0, 6-0 against No. 3 seeds Andrew Slominski and Colton Lowry of Lakeridge, but getting to a second match was a major accomplishment for the program and for the two players, Brown said.
This season was one of tremendous success for the boys tennis program. They were undefeated in conference dual matches and placed themselves among the Pacific Conference's elite.
"We went 12-0, won the conference, won the Roseburg tournament and our only dual loss was to West Linn," Brown said. "We were right behind Mac and Sherwood at districts and could've won that, too. I think it was a great year with a great group of kids, and we're only graduating four seniors, so we'll be even better next year."
Nigbur, Pintor, Joel Luft and Jonathan Guzman depart the Newberg program after quality individual and doubles careers. Brown said it will be tough to replace them – especially the state-bound contributions of Nigbur and Pintor, who were good friends and leaders on the squad.
But this year was a crucial one for the program as it continues to establish itself. Newberg is rising among the schools who don't hail from higher-income areas of the state and trying to find its place among the best squads in the Pacific Conference.
"We're not too far off," Brown said. "I'd say from the 5-6 kids through 20 in state, we're right in there. The top four teams in state are awfully talented and do what they do year after year. To be in that next echelon is great for the program, and I think we'll keep improving as we get more of a chance to play in the offseason."