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Crusaders and Cards to rumble

The state's two best girls tennis teams are both now in the Metro
by: Miles Vance AIMING FOR STATE — Jesuit senior Sanji Rao is hoping for another trip to state this year, and for another Metro League championship for the Crusaders.

The Metro League has long been the land of the giants in girls tennis, with Jesuit winning 12 big-school state championships since 1994 and Southridge taking second at state in each of the past two years.

Now, thanks to the good folks at the Oregon School Activities Association, the Metro League has gotten even tougher.

The OSAA, in its most recent quadrennial realignment of the state's high school leagues, has this year gifted the Metro League with the addition of Lincoln, the reigning 2010 state champion and a team that will almost surely be in the conversation to win again in 2011.

'Lincoln - of all the teams you wouldn't want to add to your league, it's them,' said Westview coach Tom Lefor.

Beaverton coach Katy Robinson was equally succinct, saying 'Are you kidding me? With loaded teams like Jesuit and Lincoln newly added to this league, any team that is not full of top-tier talent will find it difficult to challenge those two 'super teams.''

Indeed, the past two state champions are heavily favored to go 1-2 in this year's Metro race too, though no one's quite sure which team will win.

'I know that Lincoln will challenge us this season in Metro and district play,' said Jesuit coach Kirsten Ruchaber, whose team won five straight state crowns between 2005-2009. 'Our district tournament will be a mini state tournament.'

'It's a coin flip between Jesuit and Lincoln,' Robinson said. 'Whoever is the healthiest, plays best, and is coached best during their dual matches will win. Both teams are young, insanely talented, and well-versed in match play.'

Beyond those two teams, Sunset's girls believe they may have the edge over the rest of the league, while Southridge is dealing with the loss of two individual state champions (see the Southridge preview for more on that story).

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

ALOHA

ALOHA - Aloha's done its homework.

But getting good grades in the ultra-competitive Metro League still ain't easy.

The Warriors think they're better in 2011, and they're ready to give it their best shot, but know that success in the Metro still won't be easy to come by.

'The Lady Warriors … worked very hard in the off-season in hopes of performing and placing better than previous years,' said Aloha coach Anthony Tran. 'The key to success will be staying positive and working hard.'

This year's team will be led for the second consecutive year at No. 1 singles by senior Lily Do, while junior Elizabeth Vinesse will go at No. 2, followed by senior Janessa Hayworth and senior Samantha Saling in the third and fourth spots.

'Lily's key to a successful season will be her consistency and staying agile,' Tran said, adding that Vinesse's 'strong point is her aggressiveness and willingness to take a chance.'

In doubles, seniors Susan Yang and Angela Moukalled will play first doubles for the Warriors, while seniors Jeanette Lising and Lake Sartor will go at No. 2, seniors Emily Thompson and Gladys Tellez are next at third doubles, and freshmen Vineta Gleba and Avanka Dias will play at No. 4.

Also on the Aloha roster this year are sophomore Michelle Valdez, sophomore Kristina Linitesky, sophomore Mickayla Shortridge, freshman Monica Velazquez, freshman Crystal Vega, freshman Savannah Clendenin, freshman Tiano Carson, junior Xinfei Jin, freshman Jacquelin Juarez, freshman Joceline Castillo, and freshman Kircia Espinoza.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - Beaverton's girls are going back to the future in 2011, welcoming back coach Katy Robinson after a two-year absence, and hoping to hold their own in league play.

'Beaverton will likely finish in the middle of the league,' said Robinson, who stepped away from coaching after the 2008 season to have a baby. 'For us to succeed, our freshmen need to step up and compete at an advanced level, and our upper-classmen have to lead by example with gutsy performances and scrappy play.'

The Beavers' singles lineup this year will be led by senior Marina Golias, a one-time state qualifier in doubles, junior Maria Kojima at No. 2, and the freshman duo of Emily Coffee and Danielle Hartzog at Nos. 3-4.

In doubles, the Beavers will call on junior Adwoa Asare-Konadu and freshman Anna Reutin in the first slot, juniors Sharon Kim and Molly Laird at No. 2, senior Megan MacDonald and junior Natalie Norris in the third spot, and on junior Grace Altree and freshman Carolyn Graeper at No. 4. Freshmen Emily Collins and junior Hanna Menzel will also likely see some time in doubles.

'Our top players should be Marina Golias, a solid baseliner, in singles, and Adwoa Asare-Konadu and Anna Reutin, two strong all-court players, in doubles,' Robinson said, adding that 'Emily Coffee and Danielle Hartzog could really surprise some opponents with their athleticism, determination, and rapidly improving skills.'

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - Jesuit came into the 2010 tennis season as proud owner of two very long and very impressive winning streaks.

The first was its unbeaten run in the Metro League, which dates back to the first year the school started accepting female students in the mid 1990s and is still very much alive.

The second was its five-year state winning streak which spanned the 2005-2009 seasons. Lincoln snapped that one last spring (with Jesuit fourth), and the Crusaders enter 2011 as hungry as could be to return the favor.

'Our girls will compete strong this season to hopefully remain on top of the Metro League,' said Jesuit coach Kirsten Ruchaber.

To do it, the Crusaders know they'll need big contributions from a group of powerful freshman, most notably No. 1 singles player Erin Larner, and Jesuit's No. 1 doubles team, Meghana Rao and Darby Rosette.

'Erin Larner is a very strong singles player. The depth of her game will be key to her success this season,' Ruchaber said. 'I feel she can compete strongly with any female tennis player in the state.'

Joining Larner in the singles lineup will be senior Sanji Rao (a former doubles state champ and a third-place doubles finisher last year) in the second spot, sophomore Sarah Murphy at No. 3, and sophomore Maddy Sandquist or junior Erin Madden in the fourth spot.

Rosette and Meghana Rao will lead the team's doubles crew, with junior Ann Martel and Olivia Marshall at No. 2, Madden and senior Hayley Krach in the third spot, and seniors Kumudu Weeratunga and Jessica Chau at No. 4.

'Darby and Meghana will be a force this season at number one doubles,' Ruchaber said. 'They have a ton of tennis ability to contribute to the team this season. (and) Ann and Olivia work well together as a team and will be a very strong number two doubles team.'

Also on the Jesuit roster this year are juniors Saloni Shah, Cate Waldram and Sarah Freepons, sophomores Katherine Benedict, Sarah Murphy, Lea Campbell and Courtney Shinseki, and freshman Isabel Muench.

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - There's change afoot at Southridge this year, where the Skyhawks - one of the state's best teams in each of the past two seasons - take an unwilling step back toward the rest of the pack.

Southridge, which fielded each of the past two Class 6A state singles champions, opens 2011 with neither in its lineup. Sophia Bott, the 2010 state champion as a sophomore, moved to Southern California over the summer. And Audrey Farr, who won the 2009 title and took third place last year, has thus far chosen not to play in what would be her senior season.

'My two best players are gone,' said Southridge coach Chuck Eidenschink. 'It's very disappointing. Audrey would have had a great chance to win again.'

With those two players out of the lineup, the Skyhawks will turn to senior Hanna Ott at first singles, followed by senior Reah Luzuriaga at No. 2 ('Her physical gifts are really good,' Eidenschink said), junior Hana Birzer at No. 3, and junior Sheri Soo at No. 4. Ott was a Metro doubles district runner-up in 2010 and also a state doubles quarterfinalist.

Ott 'is a good player,' Eidenschink said. 'She hits two-handed from each side, she's got a nice volley and a pretty good serve.'

Southridge's doubles crew this year will include juniors Faye Chaiyabutr ('She's phenomenally gifted,' Eidenschink said. 'She makes it look easy') and Anna Lee (they were third at district last year) in the first position, juniors Grace and Jenny Shin at No. 2, junior Mariana Cohen and freshman Rimi Yoneya in the third spot, and seniors Shima Baratchi and Ashley Pierson at No. 4.

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - Sunset believes.

The Apollos, who tied powerful Southridge for second place in the Metro League last year, bring back a handful of talented players from last year's team, that group led by junior Lindsey Yeom, the fourth-place singles finisher from last year's Metro district tournament.

'Lindsey Yeom is looking to make a return to the state tournament,' said Sunset coach Bryan Lurie. 'She is stronger than last year and her game is overall much more consistent than last year.'

She'll be joined in the singles lineup by senior Connie Cai - She 'will be an important component to our team this year and should be in a strong position to make state again as a doubles player,' Lurie said - senior Mariel Abbene and sophomore Lucy Nam.

In doubles play, the Apollos will look to junior Nicole Nagel and sophomore Olivia Hay in the first slot, senior Lisa Cronk and senior Samantha Nelson at No. 2, junior Jamie Lin and sophomore Michelle Tai at No. 3, and some combination of senior Christine Melcher, sophomore Taylor Cyr, senior Grace Gao and freshman Bona Yang at No. 4.

'Nicole Nagel and Olivia Hay have a good shot to get (to state) in the doubles spots as well,' Lurie said.

Together, Lurie said, that group ought to give the Apollos a chance to win almost every time out.

'I think we'll be a tough opponent in the Metro this year,' Lurie said. 'I think our depth will be key to our success, particularly against the tougher teams.'

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - Westview is hoping to hold serve.

The Wildcats, fourth in league and fourth at district a year ago, believe they can repeat that performance this year, and given the incredibly dangerous state of play in the Metro League this year, that's pretty darn good.

'I'm hoping we maintain that position we had last year,' said Wildcats' coach Tom Lefor. 'I think we'll battle.'

Westview this year will be led by freshman Roopa Ramanujam at first singles, then by junior returners Swetha Malineni at No. 2, Abi Little in the third spot, and Theresa Kim at No. 4. And while Ramanujam will have her hands full at No. 1, Lefor believes she'll learn fast and improve fast.

'She's a very strong, fundamentally sound freshman,' Lefor said. 'She's got a really solid ground game, a strong serve and she moves well.'

In doubles, the Cats will call on senior sisters Kulani and Dulani Wellappili in the first spot, juniors McKenzie Crawford and Chloe Anderson at No. 2, freshmen Chewy Xiao and Elizabeth Pham at three doubles, and sophomore Michelle Rouse and freshman Valerie Frost at No. 4.

'We've got 4-5 new freshmen in who moved the ladder around and gave us a spark,' Lefor said, adding that the Wellappili sisters will 'be competitive. They work really well together and they communicate very well.'

Also on the varsity this year are Loren Losli, Amanda Tep, Aileen Gonzalez, Ann Tharappel, Angela Zhu, Ayuko Sugimoto and Connie Fan.