WL girls split with LO, tie for league title
Lady Lions hand LO a rare loss while the boys also earn at least a share of the TRL title
Some think it's been well over 20 years. Some think it's never happened. But all that really matters is that, in 2008, the West Linn girls tennis team is a co-league champion.
As talented as the Lions are this year, with arguably the best team in the school's history, it seemed unlikely that West Linn would earn that title this spring. That's because the Lake Oswego girl also have one of their best teams in over a decade and are a legitimate contender to win a state championship.
It seemed even less likely after the Lakers won the first meeting between the two teams 6-2. But even in that defeat there was plenty of reason for optimism.
Earlier in the year, coach Aaron Downs felt that even taking just one match from Lake Oswego would be a moral victory.
The Lions picked up a win at No. 1 singles when the Lakers' Markie Westwood had to retire with a tweaked hamstring. West Linn's Danika Tonning was leading the match 2-1 at the time.
West Linn also picked up a win at fourth doubles when Lisa Kirkemo and Kat Millage ground out a tough 6-4, 6-3 win.
At third singles, Courtney Moore lost a tough three-set decision 6-3, 2-6, 4-6 and the third doubles team of Natalie Smith and Katelyn Beck lost a close straight sets match.
'We played some competitive matches against them and had great success,' coach Aaron Downs said.
On Monday, when the teams met again, Lake Oswego threw out a different line-up and West Linn took advantage.
Markie Westwood was unable to play, moving the Lakers' singles players up a notch. The first singles match between Tonning and Bailey Westwood was expected to be highly competitive and likely decided the No. 1 seed at the upcoming district tournament.
Tonning put together one of the better matches of her career, playing an exceptionally consistent match and winning it in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
In fact, the singles shift proved disastrous for Lake Oswego as the Lions swept that side of the match, winning each contest in straight sets. Amanda Wagner won at No. 2 singles 7-5, 6-2, Courtney Moore bested her opponent 6-4, 6-2 at third singles and Danielle Meyer had little trouble at fourth singles, winning 6-1, 6-3.
'Our singles played phenomenally today,' Downs said.
With a singles sweep, the Lions only needed to steal a set at doubles.
Alex Smith and Kellie Kawasaki played a better match against Lake Oswego's top doubles team but fell again in straight sets as did the second doubles team of Taylor Coronel and Catherine Broadhurst.
But at third doubles, the team of Natalie Smith and Samantha Ing came through with another consistent showing. They captured the first set 6-4 and went on to win the match with a 6-2 win in the second set. That clinched the match for the Lions even with Kirkemo and Millage falling in a close match at No. 4 singles.
It was a remarkable victory for the Lions who have been steadily improving over the past few seasons, taking fourth at state in 2007. It also gives them plenty of momentum heading into next week's district tournament.
'I think this definitely gives us confidence,' Downs said.
With Lake Oswego's depth, it will be difficult to send a large crew to state this season but the Lions have proven this season that they are more than capable of pulling off big surprises.
'The girls are pretty excited and we are exicted for districts,' Downs said.
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In a wide open year in boys tennis the West Linn boys have emerged virtually unscathed to this point, racking up one razor thin victory after another and, after topping Lake Oswego 10-8 in sets on Monday, the Lions clinched at least a share of the Three Rivers League title again.
It marked the second time this year that the Lions have won by that margin over the Lakers.
This time, Lake Oswego came out with a much different line-up, stacking the doubles side of the bracket in the hopes of stealing an extra match from the Lions.
But West Linn wasn't fazed. The Lions won three of four singles matches and stole a crucial set in the one singles match it lost.
Chris Erbin and Miles Rifkin each picked up well-earned straight sets victories at first and second doubles respectively.
'Erbin and Rifkin have really carried the team on their backs to this point and now our younger guys are stepping up,' coach Ward Lewis said.
At third singles, Sam Tingey dropped the first set 2-6 but rallied to win the second 6-1. He then lost a tough third set 5-7.
But the match of the day came at No. 4 singles. Nick Russell took on Chris Aholt and battled him to a tiebreaker in the first set. Russell won the tiebreaker 7-5 and then won the second set 6-3.
'He had an incredible day. He put distractions aside and had the match of his life,' Lewis said.
But, to win the match, the Lions would still need a win in doubles.
The most likely candidates to pick that win up would be the No. 1 doubles team of Collin Bundy and Brett Wright.
And that team didn't disappoint, winning in straight set 6-3, 6-3. West Linn also picked up an important set at No. 2 doubles when Ryan Nesbit and Ken Tsuruta won the first set in an eventual three-set loss.
But, this year, everyone on the varsity squad has contributed, something that Lewis is exceptionally proud of.
'We have been able to go to everyone and everyone has contributed. This is a 12-man title,' Lewis said.
West Linn will look to qualify players for state at the district tournament which was scheduled to start today at Portland Tennis Center and conclude early next week.