Boys tennis: Woodburn underclassmen lead the way
After two failed tries earlier in the week, the Woodburn boys tennis team was finally able to record its first match of the season on Friday, falling 6-3 to the Dallas Dragons at Woodburn High School.
Not bad for the opening of spring season, when the rain clouds can open up at a moment's notice and turn an otherwise smooth tennis court into an unplayable sheet of water.
Such was the case on Thursday when the Bulldogs traveled more than an hour south to Lebanon High School only for the weather to turn sour 15 minutes into the match, postponing the contest to the following week.
Woodburn's home match against Dallas was also postponed, but the two teams were able to meet at the end of the week, giving the young Bulldog team its first action of the season.
With last year's state qualifier Trevor Karsseboom not coming out this year, and several returning veterans unable to join the team until later this season, head coach Tom Lonergan is turning to his bevy of freshmen to lead the team into the 2018 season.
"There's a lot of freshmen, it's going to be good in the long run, but in the short run it's going to be tough," Lonergan said. "In two or three weeks, we might be a pretty good team, but we're a couple weeks away from establishing some rhythm and getting some confidence."
Lonergan tapped freshman Jonathan Swenson to lead the charge in singles against Dallas. Swenson took on exchange student Sergio Sayez in the No. 1 singles match, rebounding from a loss in the opening set to tie it at two before ultimately falling by 3-6, 6-4, 4-6 margin.
"I think he was feeling some pressure," Lonergan said. "First match, freshman and he's playing a foreign exchange student from Spain. It kind of falls on his shoulders and it shouldn't."
The Bulldogs swept the remaining singles matches, with Roman Sonnik, Osvaldo Romero and George Perez each earning 6-0, 6-0 victories in their competitions.
A third-year member of the team, Sonnik is the most experienced athlete among Woodburn's singles players.
"He's doing great, and he's improved a lot," Lonergan said.
Romero is making his debut in his second year with the team after struggling with eligibility in 2017, and Perez, too, is coming into his second season with the Bulldogs.
On the doubles side, Woodburn was swept in all five matches. The fifth doubles team is a new addition to high school tennis this year, giving an odd number of matches to avoid ties. But Lonergan thinks the changes were unnecessary, given that ties were easily decided by which team won the most sets in the past.
Still, with one more doubles team on the court, that opens up two more varsity spots for each team. Woodburn is led by seniors Luis Ascencio and Esteban Cervantes in the No. 1 doubles slot, and nine of the remaining 10 doubles players are all freshmen this year.
Ascencio and Cervantes fell 0-6, 2-6 in their match, followed by Job Aquino and Juan Alfalo in a 0-6, 4-6 defeat.
"I think they're going to be all right," Lonegan said. "We just have to improve all the way down the line."
Vlad Gridinar and Aaron Juarez fell 2-6, 0-6 in the No. 3 doubles, followed by Alex Martinez and Armando Garcia losing 2-6, 3-6 in No. 4 Doubles.
Kenny Sanchez and Angel Ramirez rounded out the lineup with a 2-6, 5-7 loss in No. 5 doubles.
The added doubles team shouldn't be much of an issue for Woodburn, which has close to 20 kids out this season. But with most of them finishing up their first year of high school, Lonergan expects there will be a steep learning curve in the first few weeks of the season before the team is able to compete at full strength come April and May.
"Obviously, it's the first match we played," Lonergan said. "We have to get a lot better in doubles, but we'll get a few kids back and be eligible."
The Bulldogs have a busy week and were scheduled to make up their game against Lebanon on Monday, followed by matches against Central, Silverton and Philomath to finish the week.