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Boys tennis team tops three strong squads, moves to 1st

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Miles Rifkin gets ready to let loose a forehand during Tuesday’s league match  against Lake Oswego. Rifkin won his match at second singles 6-3, 6-3. West Linn tied the Lakers with four matches a piece but won 10-8 in sets. West Linn currently sits at 8-1 on the season and is gearing up for this weekend’s Jesuit Tournament.

The West Linn boys tennis team took some big steps forward in its quest to capture another league title recently. The Lions knocked off Clackamas, Lakeridge and Lake Oswego to stay at the top of the standings.

West Linn split the season series with Lakeridge and has upcoming matches with the Cavaliers and Lake Oswego to close out what has already been a successful season.

Against the Pacers, West Linn emerged with a 6-2 victory, taking three matches in both singles and doubles. Lakeridge was playing without one of its top singles players in Ben Shipley but the Lions were still impressive in picking up the win.

Chris Erbin and Miles Rifkin didn't have much trouble in their singles matches, winning them 6-1, 6-3 and 6-0, 6-0 respectively.

Sam Tingey tallied a convincing 6-0, 6-1 victory at fourth singles.

The best matches came in doubles, however. West Linn's No. 1 doubles team of Collin Bundy and Brett Wright dropped a close straight sets decision 6-3, 7-6. The team has been playing well in recent matches but is still looking for a breakthrough victory against a strong opponent.

'We're getting into position for districts now. That doubles team is right on the threshold,' coach Ward Lewis said.

The second and third doubles matches each went to three sets with the Lions winning both of them. Ryan Nesbitt and Ken Tsuruta dropped their first set 1-6 but rallied impressively to win the next two 7-5, 6-4.

At third doubles, Mark Chipperfield and Grant Beehler lost the opening set in a tiebreaker but then rebounded to win the next two sets easily. And at fourth doubles, Blake Beehler and Andrew Brown won 6-4, 6-3.

Against Clackamas, a team that many pegged as being a slight favorite to take the league title this year, the Lions won 5-3. The Cavaliers were playing without last year's state champion and, as a result, West Linn took three of four singles matches.

Erbin, Rifkin and Tingey all recorded straight sets victories, only dropping a total of five games between them.

Bundy and Wright lost another tough decision at first doubles, dropping the first set in a tiebreaker and losing the final set 6-4.

Nesbitt and Tsuruta also lost a three-set decision but the Lions closed out the victory at third and fourth doubles as Chipperfield and Grant Beehler and Brown and Blake Beehler each won in straight sets.

'We have had some really good play from our threes and fours. They're on a winning streak right now,' Lewis said.

Then, on Tuesday, West Linn came away with its closest victory yet, tying Lake Oswego 4-4 in matches but winning 10-8 in sets.

'Lake Oswego is getting better. Most of our matches this year have been razor thin,' Lewis said.

The Lions were paced by Erbin and Rifkin who, once again, posted straight sets victories.

'I thought Erbin and Rifkin played well and really got us going early,' Lewis said.

Two matches went to three sets against the Lakers but, this time, the Lions couldn't come up with the victories. However, the sets that were won by the Lions proved to be the difference in the match.

Bundy and Wright cruised to a 6-2 victory in the first set of their match but fell 2-6, 3-6 in the next two. And at fourth singles, Nick Russel won the first set 6-2 but lost the second 2-6 and then the third in a tiebreaker.

The Lions got crucial victories from their third and fourth doubles teams again. Chipperfield and Grant Beehler won handily 6-2, 6-1 while Blake Beehler and Brown sweated out a win at fourth doubles 6-3, 6-4.

In the second set of that match. West Linn led 5-4 but was down 15-40. The Lions rallied back to win three straight points and take the match.

'This is a very young team and we have had some tense situations. That pressure builds character and I'm really proud of these guys,' Lewis said.

West Linn has upcoming matches against Lake Oswego and Clackamas as it looks to clinch a league title. The Lions will also play in the Jesuit Tournament this weekend.

'That's a chance for us to run with the big dogs,' Lewis said.

Meanwhile, the West Linn girls have been battling the weather all season and, so far, the rain has been winning.

'It drives (the girls) nuts. They want to play,' coach Aaron Downs said.

However, the Lions did get in last week's rematch against Lakeridge. West Linn won the first meeting between the teams 7-1 and, on Thursday, the Lions were even more dominant.

In one of its best overall matches of the season, West Linn pounded the Pacers 8-0 with every match being decided in straight sets.

In fact, no opponent took more than three games in a set from the Lions.

Dannika Tonning notched a 6-0, 6-0 victory at first singles while Amanda Wagner had what Downs referred to as 'the match of the day.' The freshman had a tough battle against her Lakeridge opponent earlier in the year but, this time, she won going away 6-1, 6-0.

'We expect big things from her. She's going to surprise some people,' Downs said.

Courtney Moore and Danielle Meyer also picked up straight sets victories in singles for the Lions.

In doubles, the No. 1 team of Alex Smith and Kellie Kawasaki won 6-1, 6-0 against a different Lakeridge team that featured the top player on its ladder.

Taylor Coronel and Caherine Broadhurst won at second doubles 6-3, 6-3 as did Natalie Smith and Samantha Ing at third doubles.

Completing the sweep for the Lions was the doubles team of Kat Millage and Lisa Kirkemo.

West Linn still has a pair of matches to complete against both Clackamas and Lake Oswego but seem to have a firm hold on second place in the league behind the Lakers, one of the best teams in the state.

West Linn is scheduled to take on Lake Oswego next Tuesday.