by: Vern Uyetake, Chris Erbin won his match against Lakeridge’s Ben Shipley 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday. Erbin paired with Miles Rifkin to take second in state in doubles last year. Those two are West Linn’s top singles players this season.

It's expected to be a wide open year in the boys tennis in the Three Rivers League and, once again, the Lions hope to be right in the thick of the race for the league title.

There's a chance that history could be made too as Clackamas may have a slight edge over the rest of the teams in the league with last year's state champion, Zhenya Pereverzen, returning for his sophomore year.

And if the Cavaliers win league it would be the first time a team on the east side of the Willamette River has captured it.

'We're hoping that doesn't happen,' West Linn coach Ward Lewis said.

The Lions are led by juniors Chris Erbin and Miles Rifkin who combined to take second in state in doubles last year. They will play first and second singles for West Linn in the regular season, giving the team a very solid one-two punch at the top of its ladder.

'They're about even. We'll probably put them together (for state) but it's their decision,' Lewis said.

However, Rifkin is dealing with a herniated disc in his back early in the season that has sidelined him.

The bulk of West Linn's team is juniors as the varsity squad features eight, along with four seniors and two freshmen.

Rounding out the singles bracket for the Lions are Rick Russel at No. 3 and freshman Andrew Brown at No. 4.

At first doubles is a team of returning players in Collin Bundy and Brett Wright while juniors Sam Tingey and Ryan Nesbit will play second doubles.

Mark Chipperfield and freshman Ken Tsuruta will fill in at third doubles and Grant Beehler, Blake Beehler, Ben Klement and Isaac Callagan will likely battle it out for the fourth doubles spot.

'The threes and fours is where you win matches. We're not quite as deep as usual but I think we're in a good spot,' Lewis said.

It is a relatively young but experienced team and, with no dominant team in the league this season, every match from top to bottom will be extremely important.

'I think things are looking up. We just need a chance to hit the ball,' Lewis said.

The team has struggled to get in its preseason matches due to the bad weather but managed to top Cleveland 4-4, winning in sets.

Then on Tuesday, the Lions squared off against Lakeridge and played without the services of Rifkin. West Linn battled well, taking four matches from the rival Pacers.

However, with the teams tied in sets as well, the Pacers were able to edge out the Lions in total games. Erbin won in straight sets at No. 1 singles but the team missed Rifkin as Lakeridge swept second through third singles. Tingey was able to steal a set in a tiebreaker however.

West Linn made up ground in doubles as Bundy and Wright won in straight sets as did Blake Beehler and Klement.

In the closest match of the day, Nesbit and Tsuruta rallied after losing an opening-set tiebreaker and won the remaining two sets 6-4, 6-3 at second doubles.

In the end Lakeridge managed to steal just enough games in its four losses to come away with the win.

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