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Defending Metro and Class 6A champ Jesuit is favored yet again
by: Miles Vance ON THE BALL – Jesuit junior Nick Biggi and his Crusader teammates are back in search of another Metro League and Class 6A state championship this season.

The Metro League is simply the best in boys tennis.

The league produced the Class 6A state champion in Jesuit, and also three other top-10 teams (Sunset, Southridge and Beaverton) in 2010.

Now, with the addition of Lincoln to the Metro League fold, the league got even tougher.

'Adding Lincoln will be intriguing and make the Metro League ridiculously tough,' said Beaverton coach Matt Hottmann.

'Lincoln is always one of the best teams in the PIL,' said Jesuit coach Jeff Wood. 'It made a league that was tough even tougher.'

That said, the Crusaders - with five players back from last year's state champion - are again the team to beat. Jesuit enters 2011 carrying a 59-match league winning streak (it hit 60 with Monday's league-opening victory over Southridge), and a three-year run of state titles

too. The Crusaders are likely to add to both those streaks this year.

'Jesuit is again the team to beat,' said Aloha coach Kurt Lindner. 'They always seem to have great depth and this year is no exception.'

'Jesuit is just so stinking tough,' said Sunset coach Lad Salness. 'And they got some good freshman in. You have to give Jesuit the nod.'

'They are just too deep and too committed,' Hottmann added. 'I'd like to say it's unfair and all about the talent … but they work so hard in the off-season. It's tough to keep up with the commitment of their players and the culture they have created to push one another to success.'

Still, Sunset will be tough and deep this year too, and hopes to make a run at Jesuit and the top of the standings.

Following are previews of the varsity boys tennis teams at the Metro League's Beaverton-area schools.

ALOHA

ALOHA - Things are looking up at Aloha.

The Warriors know things will still be tough in the state's best tennis league, and they know that their youthful lineup may take a while to gel, but they also believe that their talent level is better, and that 2011 should be better than 2010.

'We didn't have a good year last year in the win-loss department, but we're a better team this year,' said Aloha coach Kurt Lindner. 'Most of the teams we play will have more experience (but) we just have to focus on what we can control and we'll be all right.'

The Warriors went winless in league last year and didn't score a point at district, but believe that freshman newcomer Austin Nguyen will help lead Aloha to bigger, better things this season.

Nguyen 'will have his work cut out for him in the Metro League facing players who are older and with more experience,' Lindner said. 'He has impressed me so far with his ability to read his opponents in our non-league matches.'

Joining Nguyen in the singles ladder will be junior Jeff Vuong at No. 2, while seniors James Kim and Stuart Ness bring experience at the third and fourth slots.

In doubles, Aloha will call on juniors Corey Aing and Yousef Sukhun at No. 1, while senior George Asare and junior Jin Lee will play second doubles, followed by juniors Jaren Feldman and Jack Waldram are third, and senior Roy Bonnor and junior Sayan Bardari are fourth.

Also on the Warrior roster are juniors Bryon Banmon, Preston Duch, Terry Fox and Tanner Ross, sophomores David Choi, James Ramirez and Tyrell Stone, and freshman Justin Hua.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - In some ways, Beaverton is starting from ground zero in 2011.

After all, the Beavers sent just two players into the 2010 district quarterfinals and graduated both of those, and bring back just one - senior Ben Menashe - who won a match at last year's district tournament.

That said, Beaverton expects to be better this season, and hopes to play its way into the top half of the league standings.

'Since the weather has been so miserable, it's been tough to find the proper lineup and chemistry,' said Beaverton coach Matt Hottmann. But 'I'd guess we'll be fighting in the middle of the pack like most of the Metro teams.'

This year's Beaver lineup will be led by junior Rosen Ilchev and Menashe at the top of the singles ladder, along with freshman Kofi Asare-Konadu.

'Rosen plays a good, solid all-court game,' Hottmann said. 'He plays a pretty heavy, left-handed ball, so that's a different look for the top players. He's still looking for some consistency in his match play, but when he gets on a roll, he is fun to watch.'

The Beavers' fourth singles player and its four doubles teams will come from the following group of players: junior Teodor Radenkov; senior Mark Mariano; junior Kenya Reutin; junior Austin Ngo; senior Ashwin Malynur; junior Victor Tran; junior Hidemitsu Nagayama; sophomore Mitch Reames; and junior Brandon Anderson.

'I have a lot of flexibility this year, which is nice,' Hottmann said. But 'finding some depth at three and four doubles will be key. The learning curve will be steep, but if we compete well down there, we'll be fine.'

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - Things have been going - to understate it grandly - pretty well for the Jesuit boys in recent years.

Indeed, the Crusaders enter the 2011 season in the midst of a 59-match league winning streak that dates back to 2004, and also carrying a three-year winning streak at the state tournament.

And none of that is likely to change this season.

The Crusaders bring back six players who helped the team win the 2010 state tournament, that group led by junior Nick Biggi (the third-place finisher in 6A singles last year), senior Peder Gram (a '10 state singles quarterfinalist), senior Gram Leahy (a state doubles champ last year), senior Sam Stephenson (a state doubles runner-up) junior Nic Mulflur (a state doubles runner-up), and sophomore Connor Leahy (a state quarterfinalist).

'We should be pretty good,' said Jesuit coach Jeff Wood. 'We've got a lot of experience coming back. If we keep everyone healthy, we should be tough to beat.'

Leahy, Gram and Biggi will, in some order, fill in the top three singles slots for Jesuit this year, but Wood has yet to settle on who will play fourth singles as of yet.

In doubles, Mulflur and Stephenson are at the top of the ladder, followed by some combination of senior Terry Larson, junior Mark Mallory and Connor Leahy at second doubles. The rest of the doubles lineup will include: sophomore Sam Malech; sophomore Anoth Mohan; freshman Nathan Lortz; freshman Alejandro Centruion; junior Carson Hall; senior Nick Muench; junior Max Mooney; senior Matt Shinseki; junior Eric Ho; freshman Mitchell Morse; and sophomore Riley Hazard.

'Having another year under their belts really helps,' Wood said. 'The maturity of someone who's been to state three years in a row really helps.'

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - Southridge's boys have, for the past two years in a row, been Jesuit's biggest competition in the Metro League.

Not coincidentally, those years also marked the Chad Chaiyabutr era at Southridge, and era that -unfortunately for the Skyhawks - is over.

Chaiyabutr, the reigning Metro champion and runner-up at the 2010 Class 6A state tournament, was recently ruled ineligible for his senior season and will not play in 2011. Chaiyabutr, who transferred to Southridge for the 2009-2010 school year, played two seasons for the Skyhawks and previously played two high school seasons in Thailand.

'I will personally miss him for, not only his contribution to the team, but how the rest of the team looked up to him,' said Southridge coach Mike Horton. 'He is a great kid and would have been a huge asset to our team this year.'

Still, the 2011 Skyhawks can play, their roster led this year by freshman Andrew Nakajima and senior Nathan Chong at the top of the singles ladder.

Nakajima 'is a USTA tournament player who brings much needed experience to that position. Andrew has a complete game, and he will need it to compete in this league,' Horton said, adding that Chong was 'rock solid' at third and fourth singles the last two years. 'He brings consistency and high school experience to this position.'

Junior Nate Gangelhoff, sophomore Ashwin Swaninathan, junior Blake Kuroiwa and junior Muhammed Khan will, in some order, complete the singles lineup. In doubles, Kuroiwa and Swaninathan will go at No. 1, sophomores Hunter Giles and Tyler Hotan will play No. 2, sophomore Tanner Holland and junior Riley Stricker are at No. 3, while juniors Austin Chanthakhoun and Mitchell Lee will go at No. 4.

The Southridge lineup also includes sophomore Zachery Stark, sophomore Eric Seo, junior Paul Han, freshman Naveed Habibelahian, freshman Sean Lee, freshman Omeed Habibelahian, sophomore James Sonu, junior Conner Gibbs, and sophomore Robert Melendez.

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - Deep, experienced and hungry, Sunset boys are ready to make a run at the top of the standings again in 2011.

The Apollos bring back seven players from last year's district runner-up and are also bolstered by a strong transfer from Jesuit.

'We are deep and we are good,' said Sunset coach Lad Salness. 'We should be one of the top four or five teams in the state.'

This year's crew will be led in singles by senior Max Lee, junior Joe Remington (formerly a Jesuit student who now attends Westside Christian), sophomore Brian McKettrick, junior Mitch Yannello and sophomore Ian Paik.

Lee, McKettrick and Paik, all reached the district quarterfinals in doubles last year, and Paik and the graduated Jeff Yeom played to fourth at district and eventually third at state. Remington and his Jesuit partner reached the second round of the district doubles draw before being eliminated by the eventual district and state champions.

'McKettrick has gotten a lot better,' Salness said. 'He and Remington are really messing up the singles ladder. It's really up in the air.'

Also back with experience for the Apollos are senior Saawan Patel, junior Thomas Kim, and senior Anish Bilakanti.

McKettrick and Paik will likely play No. 1 doubles for the Apollos, while Sunset's other doubles will come from the following pool of players: seniors Kellen VanPelt, Ibrahim Rahman, and Som Mishra, juniors Zach Sundara, David Choi, Abshishek Raol, Daniel Yi, and Jin Ho Kim, sophomores Charles Lee, Alex Song, Garrett Smith, Shivam Patel, and Micah Birge, and freshman Matt Means, Rahul Bilakanti, Victor Lin, Willie Kaufman, Diego Molina, Vedant Raol and Robbie Matson.

'Four of those freshman are really good too, but they haven't been able to break in yet because of everybody else,' Salness added.

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - There are more question marks than answers at this point of the new 2011 season for the Westview Wildcats.

With the almost constant March rain since spring practices began, Westview didn't play a match until its league opener on Monday - a 5-3 win over Aloha - and has few practices to fine tune its lineup.

That said, the Wildcats think they'll probably be OK.

'With a wet March, we've had close to zero on-court practice and no pre-season matches,' said Westview coach Colin Arnold. 'Hopefully, we can escape the first half of the season OK and build momentum into the second half of the season.'

This year's Wildcat team will be led in singles by seniors Ranish Patel and Justin Diep, and by sophomores Andre Do and Nikita Ivanov.

'Patel is an all-around solid player,' Arnold said. He's got a 'good fitness level due to being a varsity soccer player - that may help if matches are extended into third set.'

Diep is solid too, Arnold said, while also praising Do's understanding of the game and Ivanov's improvement since last year and his calm personality.

While the weather has made it virtually impossible for Westview to set its doubles teams, sophomores Shishir Madari and Kevin Wang played No. 1 against Aloha, sophomores Minh Lu and Arjun Kandaswamy were at No. 2, sophomores Ankit Gupta and Adarsh Patra played No. 3, and freshmen Lamson Vu and Rushil Patel were at No. 4.

Also due for time this year are: seniors Raj Nagappan and Akiyuki Tokuda, juniors, John Yee, Thuy Tran and Taj Taher, sophomores Sid Sengupta, Duncan Zhang and Rhaghov Tripathi, and freshmen Wrik Sinha, Prakhar Shrivastava, Adarsh Bhatt, Brian Park, Justin Carroll and Utkarsh Khetan.