The Pioneers were led by top singles player Maggie Fox reaching the semifinals.

SANDY POST: MATT RAWLINGS - Sandy's Maggie Fox focuses in on getting her forehand back over the net in her quarterfinal victory on Wednesday.

PORTLAND — Maggie Fox has been the top singles player for Sandy all four years of her high school career, but her effort to qualify for state had been thwarted in the first three years as a member of the Pioneers.

But on Wednesday, Fox achieved the goal that she has been striving for since her freshman season.

In the quarterfinal match at the Northwest Oregon Conference District Meet — which concluded on Thursday at Parkrose High School — Fox defeated Putnam's Perry Bradley-Bender 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the semifinals and clinch a berth in the state meet.

"This is an amazing feeling. I don't think it's completely set in yet." Fox said. "(Bradley-Bender) is an amazing player, I was just able to run everything down that she hit."

As a team, Sandy finished second to Wilsonville in the conference tournament. The Pioneers also qualified the doubles duo of Avery Whitlock and Stacia Howes as well as Madison Krening on the singles side. All four players will be first-time competitors at the state meet.

"I really liked our effort. The girls played really well," Sandy head coach Greg Thorson said. "The highlight, though, was Maggie. She has been our No. 1 option for so long and she had never had a chance to go because singles is just stacked in our league. But she played the match of her life today and I'm very excited for her."

Fox was this fifth-seeded player coming into the bracket and she cake-walked through the first and second rounds, winning each match 6-0, 6-0 before facing fourth-seeded Bradley-Bender in the quarterfinals.

Bradley-Bender had been notorious for being a big swinger, so Fox's goal coming into the match was to be a backboard.

"My main tactic was to hit her winners back," Fox said. "I started to lose my rhythm a little bit, but I just kept thinking of the ultimate goal."

Fox executed her game-plan to perfection as Bradley-Bender played right into her strategy.

"It's no secret that Perry's a big hitter," Thorson said. "But the problem with big hitters is that when the ball keeps coming back, they try to hit a little bit bigger and tire themselves out. Maggie's determination and willpower to get everything back was so evident. She willed herself to win that match."

After winning the final point, Fox was emotionally embraced by her teammates and then immediately sought out Thorson — who has been her coach for 11 years.

"It was an unbelievable moment," Thorson said. "All the girls love Maggie. I'm so happy that she gets to go to state."

Fox ended up placing fourth in the district after losing her semifinal match.

On the doubles side, the duo of Whitlock and Howes were Sandy's third doubles team during the dual season. They were the sixth overall seed and got through the first two rounds with ease. But in the quarterfinal match, they were set to take on their teammates Kaitlyn Poulin and Emma Donahue to play for who would get the chance to compete at state.

"The first time I saw the bracket, I couldn't sleep," Howes said. "I was so stressed out about it. Kaitlyn and Emma are my two best friends on the team."

Poulin and Donahue both played at state last year and were the number three overall seed. But it was evident early on that both that both teams were pretty evenly matched.

Howes and Whitlock won the first three games and eventually stole the first set in tiebreaker fashion.

Look for extended coverage in the May 16 print edition.

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