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Crusaders ready to go in 08

But Sunset believes it has the horses to make a run at Jesuit in 2008
by: MILES VANCE, BACK AT IT — Beaverton sophomore Alen Suklje hopes to make a run at a Metro League title this year as well as a berth to the Class 6A state tournament.

The state's best will once again roam the tennis courts of the Beaverton School District, and the best of the best in Metro League boys tennis will once again be at Jesuit.

Unless Sunset can knock the Crusaders off the top perch they've held for the last three years.

'As always, the team to beat again this year is Jesuit. They have a great coach and tons of depth,' said Aloha coach Kurt Lindner.

'With Spencer (Moore) and Michael (Freeman), I have a hard time seeing anyone beating Jesuit this year,' said Beaverton coach Matt Hottmann. 'Sunset will make a run at them, and I'm sure there will be some great, close matches, but I think ultimately we'll be looking at another sweep through the Metro for Jesuit.'

For his part, Jesuit coach Jeff Wood thinks his team, led by state singles qualifiers Spencer Moore and Mike Freeman, has a good chance, but knows that Sunset will provide a stiff test along the way.

'I think that the same teams that were at the top last year will be there again this year,' said Jesuit coach Jeff Wood. But as far as district goes, 'I think the league is as wide open as it's been in years.'

Following are previews of the varsity boys tennis teams at the six Metro League high schools.

ALOHA

ALOHA - In some ways, Aloha is starting fresh in 2008.

The Warriors graduated seven seniors from last year's team, including Metro runner-up Dimitri Anast, but still enter 2008 with a fair bit of talent and high hopes.

We 'are working on getting experience at the varsity level for players that played JV last year with a couple of new players altogether,' said Aloha coach Kurt Lindner.

This year's team will be led by juniors Eric Liao and Jordon Ott at the top of the singles ladder, with senior Phillip Do and junior Jacob Johnson close behind.

'Liao is very steady and consistent, with good shot selection,' Lindner said, adding that Ott 'has a great forehand and work ethic (but) it's going to be tough to make state in the Metro League.'

While Lindner has not yet cemented his doubles teams, players vying for those spots will include senior Ben Haigh, junior Vinh Nguyen, junior Tony Wirth, sophomore Erik Saltveit, senior James Oh and juniors Sai Yang, Sam Fleig and Tenzin Ganub.

'My doubles are still forming for several reasons,' Lindner said, noting that some of those questions will be answered when his team hits the court more regularly - they've only played twice thus far - including four matches scheduled in the first week following spring break.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - Beaverton may not quite be ready to challenge the Metro League's best teams, but the Beavers may not be that far off either.

The Beavers' singles ladder will be led by sophomore Alen Suklje and freshman Daivik Orth, and while their relative youth is a concern for Beaver coach Matt Hottmann, he's convinced that his young players' talent will carry the day.

'Alen is a power player. He has a big serve and he can definitely hurt people from the baseline with flat-out winners,' Hottmann said. 'He's improved a lot in his shot selection since a freshman and his backhand has made huge strides so I'm excited to see what he can do in the Metro this year.'

Orth, meanwhile, offers a solid No. 2 and a good contrast to Suklje.

'He has a big forehand as well, but he's a lanky, quick, little guy,' Hottmann said. 'Being a freshman and playing number two in Metro is tough, but he's a USTA tournament player so he is used to playing tough matches.'

Freshman Ben Menashe and sophomore Jamal Keuter round out the singles roster.

In doubles play, seniors Nitin Agrawal and Thomas Overlund are set at No. 1, juniors Fletcher Miller and Joe Springhetti will play No. 2, junior Dan Nguyen and senior Tatsunori Nakashima will go at No. 3, and six other players may share time at No. 4.

'My one doubles can be both incredible and terrible. They are inconsistent, but on the right day they should be able to play with anyone,' Hottmann said. 'Let's just hope they have the 'right day' often during the season.'

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - As good as Jesuit was last year - they went 10-0 in Metro play and finished eighth at state - the Crusaders ought to be even better in 2008.

Jesuit brings back seniors Spencer Moore and Mike Freeman - players who placed first and third in the 2007 Metro District tournament - at the top of the singles ladder and those two should pace their team to another successful Metro season.

'If all goes well, I'd like to see them meet up in the finals at district,' said Jesuit coach Jeff Wood, who noted that Moore is now fully recovered from a broken wrist he suffered in last year's state tournament.

'He's back at it (and) Freeman looks good. Every year, he's gotten better. I think he's one of the top eight in the state.'

Moore played his way into the state quarterfinals before being injured last year while Freeman advanced to the second round of the '07 singles draw.

Jesuit also brings in a strong group of freshmen that should contribute immediately.

'We lost some good seniors (from 2007), but this is one of the strongest freshman classes we've ever had,' Wood said.

The rest of the singles lineup will include senior Roshan Warrier and freshmen Peder Gram and Graham Leahy. In doubles, Jesuit will call on junior Winston Neville, junior Vineet Mehndiratta, Leahy or Gram, sophomore Thomas Dols, sophomore Brendan Gibbons, senior Jeremy McCarroll, senior Edwin Janes, freshman Terry Larson and sophomore Jason Martel.

'We have the capability of fielding three or four good doubles teams,' Wood said.

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - Southridge is ready for better things in 2008.

After an 0-10 Metro record in 2007, the Skyhawks come back in '08 with more experience, more talent and legitimate hope for more wins.

'I think we are a little stronger than last year, with all but one returning from last year,' said Southridge coach Michael Horton. 'With some eager underclassmen knocking at the varsity back door it should make for an interesting year.'

The '08 Skyhawks will be led by junior Kyahn Daraee and senior James Kim at the top of the singles ladder, which will also include senior Dennis Cordova (a transfer/foreign exchange student from Venezuela) and talented freshman Nathan Chong.

'Kyahn has a good all-around court game but still needs to hit with direction and consistency,' Horton said, adding that Kim 'is just a great kid. (He) works hard during practice and is a natural leader.'

In doubles, Southridge will call on sophomore returners Braden Adcock and Kevin Funkhouser, a duo that just missed a trip to state last year, at No.1. After that, they will use some combination of seniors Joe Kim, Radu Tudorache and Paul Lim, junior Jack Chou, junior sophomores Kite Birzer and Matt Lee and freshman Jeremy Plymale for their final three doubles squads.

Adcock and Funkhouser 'had a great season last year. … If they can increase their first serve percentage, they will definitely be a contender at state,' Horton said.

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - The Metro League has belonged to Jesuit the last three years. Sunset has reason to believe 2008 could be the year of the Apollo.

Sunset returns nine seniors with varsity experience in a lineup stocked with talent and ready to take on the Crusaders.

'We should have an interesting match with them,' Apollos' coach Lad Salness said. 'It should be fun.'

Senior Chris Seibel is Sunset's No. 1 singles player and had a busy 'off-season' competing in numerous USTA tournaments.

'Chris has worked hard this off-season,' Salness said. ' He has really improved. He has a big serve and volley game and he does a great job from the baseline.'

The Apollos' No. 2 is sophomore Jeff Yeom, who Salness said is 'young but big and strong. He has worked very hard all year and has a very big serve and baseline game.'

Junior Mike Furuya plays No. 3 and 'is a fantastic competitor,' according to Salness. Senior Alex Belmonte rounds out the Apollos' singles lineup.

Sunset also returns experience in doubles play led by seniors Eric Furaya and Tim Neal, who Salness said 'should compete for the league title and be in the top 4 for state.'

Seniors Elliot Neal and Naveen Nania are at No. 2 doubles, while seniors Evan Liu and Caleb Lu are No. 3 and juniors William Wang and Ashish Patra are No. 4.

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - There's been some turnover at Westview with the graduation of half the varsity lineup. Nonetheless, the Wildcats' mentality remains steadfast.

'As always we will be competing hard for a top spot,' Westview coach Colin Arnold said.

Several Wildcats will also find themselves competing for a varsity position with as many as 14 players vying to fill eight doubles spots.

Westview's singles lineup is well set with junior Minje Shin at No. 1 and senior Sam Crawford at No. 2. The pair feature contrasting styles with Shin a 'very smooth player,' while Crawford is an 'explosive player,' according to Arnold.

'Having also played varsity basketball, (Minje's) footwork is some of the best around,' Arnold said. '(He) doesn't try to overpower the ball and is willing to just keep hitting the ball to outlast an opponent.'

Crawford is battling a foot injury that will hamper him through the early going. Once he returns to full strength, Arnold expects good things.

'With three years varsity experience, he knows what to do to win,' Arnold said. 'On a good day, he is capable of beating the league's best and has in USTA play.'

Sophomore Marcin Kowalski (No. 3) and junior John Lee (No. 4) round out the Wildcats' singles lineup.

Doubles is more complicated with Arnold expecting continuous competition.

'The remaining 14 guys have been playing with different partners and are trying to find the right chemistry,' Arnold said. 'It's an ongoing thing throughout the season as teams can change from day-to-day, match-to-match.'