Joe Palidochuk and Carl Sonnenschein take home the doubles title for Central Catholic

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Central Catholic teammates Joe Palidochuk, right, and Carl Sonnenschein celebrate a point in Wednesdays three-set title match victory. GRESHAM — Central Catholic’s duo of Joe Palodichuk and Carl Sonnenschein had a long day ahead of them with a lot at stake Wednesday. Their day started with four hours sitting at a desk puzzling over Advanced Placement exams before quickly driving across town to put together a championship run at the Mount Hood Conference district tennis tournament.

The duo hit the ground running with a straight-set win in the semifinals that didn’t even last an hour. But a tougher test would await them in the finals.

Barlow’s pair of Zac Blume and Daley McKay claimed the first set, putting the Rams into must-win mode for the first time in the tournament.

“We knew we could get back into it. The match wasn’t out of reach, we just had to settle down,” Sonnenschein said. “Sitting in a classroom for four hours doesn’t bode well for fresh legs.”

They answered the challenge by moving out to a 3-0 lead in the second set on a service ace by Palodichuk.

Barlow picked up a couple games to get back into the match, setting the stage for a pivotal seventh game showdown.

Barlow forced a break point when McKay converted a well-placed drop shot in the frontcourt. But the Rams turned the tide when Sonnenschein won a pinball volley at the net eventually giving Central the game and a commanding 5-2 lead.

“They were hitting some big shots in that first set, so we just had to play it a bit safer and not try for big winners every time,” Palodichuk said. “We were able to keep active on our side and find a good rhythm.”

On the singles side, Barlow’s Kyle Helm crushed each of his opponents in lopsided straight-set matches, including a 6-2, 6-1 win over Centennial’s Justin Thammabanvong in the finals.

Helm used a powerful serve to win points quickly in the title bout after taking some pre-match advice from Bruins’ coach Andrew Pate.

“Coach noticed I was taking my eyes off the ball on my serve, so I made the adjustment and that was pretty much the whole match for me. I haven’t served that well all year,” Helm said. “I just kept my focus and pretended no one else was there.”

The Bruins had a huge tournament, qualifying half of its team for next week’s state tournament with two singles players and two doubles teams advancing.

Barlow won the tournament with 20 points — four ahead of Central Catholic. But the Rams claimed the conference title based on their 10-0 dual record, which included a sweep of the Bruins.

The 6A state tournament begins Thursday and Friday, May 16-17, at the Portland Tennis Center before moving to Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation for Saturday's championship matches.

View a photo gallery from the MHC district tournament at ...

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