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Barlow tries to claim fifth straight league title

BOYS TENNIS - Barlow and Central Catholic expected to battle at the top
by: David Ball, Barlow senior Kevin Sayson returns to the court this spring as a three-time state qualifier. He has been the district runner-up in singles the last two years.

The Barlow boys tennis team has won at least a share of the Mount Hood Conference title four years running, but the Bruins expect a tough challenge in their quest for another championship this spring.

The Bruins graduated half of its varsity lineup from a year ago, opening the door for Central Catholic and Centennial to make a run at the crown.

The Rams may be in the best position to challenge with their No. 1 players returning in both singles and doubles. Seniors Nate Ford and Peter Brown advanced to the state quarterfinals in 2007 and appear to be the league's top duo. Central also brings back junior John Brewer, who reached the district semifinals last year.

Following are previews of the five local schools:

• Barlow graduated six seniors from last year's championship team, forcing coach Andrew Pate to find new combinations for success in 2008.

Senior Kevin Sayson returns in the No. 1 singles spot after reaching the state tournament in each of his first three high school seasons. He has been district runner-up the last two years. Sayson competed in numerous summer tournaments and honed his skills against some of the metro-area's top players at the University of Portland academy.

'He's playing more aggressively and his strokes have improved,' Pate said. 'He has that confidence of knowing he's played those high-pressure matches before.'

• Centennial graduated their top players in singles and doubles, but the Eagles still brings back enough players to stay in the top half of the standings. The singles lineup will see last year's players each move up a spot on the ladder with sophomore Will Cooper stepping into the No. 1 position.

'Will plays with intelligence,' Eagles' coach Mick Nelson said. 'He's good at figuring out strategies while he's out there playing, and he likes to change things up on his opponent.'

Sophomore Marcu Tudor and senior Wyatt Brock are also returning varsity members, who gives the team solid winning potential in the No. 2 and 3 positions.

• David Douglas returns district singles champ Wyat Chan, who won all of his district matches in straight sets last year.

'He's grown quite a bit, so he's getting more power on his ground strokes,' Scots' coach Brad Joy said. 'And he does a great job of controlling the points.'

• Gresham finished in the middle of the pack last season and will likely stay in that mix this spring. Senior Justin Chea returns in the No. 1 singles spot, as he takes aim on gaining a state berth in his final season.

'The big key is that he's playing with more consistency,' Gophers' coach Todd Nagel said. 'He's serving the ball better and getting more comfortable at the net.'

Junior Ryan Seymour and sophomore Alec Yoshizumi provide depth in singles.

• Reynolds mustered only one dual win in league play last year and graduated Troy Korum and Will Stinman off the doubles team that accounted for most of the Raiders' wins at the district tournament.

Reynolds looks to rebuild under first-year coach Chris Phelps, who could not be reached in time for this preview.

A full boys tennis preview was published in the Saturday, March 22, issue of the Outlook.