• Wilson junior, favored to take state tennis title, sees 2002 as lesson
There was a point in the state championship singles match last spring when Wilson High's Momei Qu started thinking ahead Ñ not just a serve or two, but to the outcome.
Qu had won the first set 6-4 and was breezing 3-0 in the second against Cleveland senior Cristin Sammis, whom she had beaten in the Portland Interscholastic League final two weeks earlier.
'I started thinking, 'I'm going to be state champion, and I'm only a sophomore!' ' Qu recalls.
That was the turning point. Sammis roared back to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a thoroughly entertaining match.
'I learned that a match is never over until it's over,' says Qu, who as a freshman had won the PIL title and reached the state semifinals. 'There is always time to come back and win as long as you're still playing, so you can never stop.'
Qu will remember that lesson as she pursues the state championship this spring. She is the favorite.
'There are still other good players in the state who I'll have to beat,' she says, 'but I'm hoping I'll win this year.'
Qu, 16, took up tennis at age 10.
'My parents wanted me to play a sport so I wouldn't become a nerd,' she says.
She experimented with basketball, swimming, badminton and track, but at 5-foot-3, she settled on tennis, where lack of height is not such a disadvantage.
Her strength is her consistency. She's a strong hitter of ground strokes and is mentally tough as well.
As a sophomore, Qu beat top-seeded Nicole Jackson of Lake Oswego in the semifinals. Against Sammis, both in the PIL title match and the state championship, Qu worked the corners of the court with precision, something confident players do É at least until the final 14 games.
Sammis, who was somewhat injured in the PIL final, forged a comeback that made Qu resort to less tactically challenging shots, ones that were easier to return. As that happened, the duel of Portland stars really swung.
'If there was one match that I could play over,' Qu says, 'it would be that match.'
Qu seemed to learn from that defeat in a hurry. She reached the quarterfinals of a U.S. Tennis Association junior tournament a week later and won a USTA junior event for players 16 and under in July.
Wilson coach Larry Allen, who has been at the school for 10 years, says Qu is as good a player as he's seen. That includes Amy Juppenlatz, who won the state title in 1999 while playing for the Trojans.
'She's the equal of Amy,' Allen says. 'She's very steady on the court and in the mental part of the game. She doesn't lose that often, and when she does, she'll figure out how to do better.'
This year, Qu has been first in one Pacific Northwest tournament and second in another. She is ranked 52nd in the nation in the 16-and-under division. The only other Oregonian ranked at 16-and-under is St. Mary's Academy sophomore Katie Tabb, who is No. 306. Reynolds senior Emily Kirchem is ranked No. 193 at 18-and-under.
This weekend, most of the nation's top junior players will be in Palm Springs, Calif., for the Easter Bowl, an annual USTA Super National event. Qu is one of just eight Oregonians who qualified for the tournament, which has 763 entrants (Joel Kinkaid of Lincoln and Tommy Hicks of Grant are entered in the boys singles).
Goals for team and college
Qu's teammates at Wilson think highly of her.
'She's very team-oriented. She's always yelling for us,' says junior Britta Jaques, who went to the state tournament last year with junior playing partner Megan Dowdy.
To add to the personal disappointment of last season, Qu points out that if she had won the championship match, Wilson would have won a team trophy instead of tying for seventh place and missing out on the hardware.
Qu's challengers for the state title this season include Kirchem, the No. 2 seed in the tourney last season; senior Kelli Royer of Churchill, who was the No. 5 seed; Becky Correll of Roseburg, the No. 6 seed a year ago; Elise Montrose of Sunset, the No. 8 seed; and St. Mary's sophomore Tabb.
In the PIL, Qu's top competitor figures to be Grant sophomore Julia Strang, who reached round 16 at the state tournament last season.
A state title would help Qu toward her goal of gaining a college scholarship. She's already contacted the tennis programs at Northwestern and Notre Dame, where she plans to study business or medicine.
A long-term career as a professional tennis player doesn't seem to be in her future, though.
'I see tennis as a way to help pay for college, but not as a career,' she says. 'I've seen what some other people, some of whom are my coaches, have gone through as professionals, and I don't think I want to go through that.'