The Wildcats shake off a slow start in Metro play with wins over Beaverton and Aloha's boys
by: MILES VANCE, WHACK – Westview senior Sean Crawford strikes a forehand return during his 6-3, 6-2 win over Aloha’s Erik Liao at first singles at Westview High School on Friday afternoon.

ROCK CREEK - Bit by bit and step by step, the Westview boys tennis team is getting better, and Aloha was the latest team to find that out.

After starting the Metro League season at 1-5, the Wildcats have now come together for two straight wins, moved into a tie for fourth place and are just one win out of third. One of those victories, over Aloha by a 6-2 margin, came last Friday at Westview High School and emphasized the Cats' improvement - in round one at Aloha, Westview escaped with a 10-9 win on sets after the two teams tied at four matches apiece.

'The second half of the season, we've been a lot better,' said Westview senior Sean Crawford, who won his match at No. 1 singles in straight sets. 'There's just more of the players getting into the groove of the matches and getting more experience so it will help build our team the next year or two.'

The Warriors, meanwhile, pushed Westview into three three-set matches, winning two of them, but still fell short and - along with Friday's 8-0 loss to Jesuit - dropped to 0-8 in Metro play.

While disappointed with the loss, Aloha junior Erik Liao was just glad to get the match in under sunny skies after a spring season ravaged by rain and postponements.

'We got backed up in a lot of matches - we had to wait three days to play this match,' said Liao, his team's top singles player. 'We mixed it up (today) a little with all these challenge matches so we'll see how it goes.'

The Wildcats won three of four singles matches last week, with Crawford taking out Liao 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles to set the pace for the day. Crawford, in only his third No. 1 match of the season after battling an injury to his left foot, was pleased with the win but knows he's still got a lot of room for improvement.

'I'm still bothered by the injury so it hasn't been so great so far, but I'm still trying to recover and, hopefully, I can do better the rest of the season,' Crawford said. 'It's been bugging me for a while but I'm just trying to play through it and hopefully I can pull out a win for our team.'

Like his team, Liao walked away disappointed but felt he was close to breaking through and getting a win.

'I think I did all right,' Liao said. 'I just needed to make a few more first serves, and there were some long rallies and I just needed to stay in them a little longer, but he came out in the end.'

The Wildcats also walked away with wins in the second and third singles matches, with junior Minje Shin - who also played at No. 1 this year - taking out Aloha senior Phillip Do 6-3, 6-2 at second singles and Westview sophomore Marcin Kowalski racing past Warrior junior Jacob Johnson 6-0, 6-1 at third singles.

Aloha senior Ben Haigh made sure the Cats didn't sweep all four singles slots, though. Haigh swept to a 6-0 first-set win against Wildcat sophomore Matthew Amayao, dropped a 7-6 (6) decision in set two and came back to win the match with a 6-4 margin in the third set.

The Wildcats very nearly duplicated that effort in the day's doubles matches, winning at first, second and fourth doubles while Aloha broke through to win at third doubles.

At No. 1, it was junior Harish Vemuri and freshman Hari Caushik of Westview who knocked off Aloha juniors Vinh Nguyen and Tony Wirth 6-4, 6-4. Wildcat junior Nick Sanford and senior Alex Quiner did their part next, beating Aloha senior James Oh and junior teammate Sai Yang 6-1, 7-6 (6) at No. 2.

The Warriors broke up Westview's dominance at third doubles, however, with sophomore Erik Saltveit and junior Arsalan Zolfaghari winning a tough three-setter against junior Eric Wu and senior Albert Lee 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3.

But Westview came back to close out the day with one more win, taking the fourth doubles match when freshmen Ramish Patel and Raj Nagappan won the day's most competitive match over Aloha juniors J.J. Joobbani and Sam Fleig. In that match, Patel and Nagappan won a first-set tiebreaker 7-6 (2), lost the second set 7-5, then won another tiebreaker - and a long one - in the third set, 7-6 (11).

In upcoming matches - weather permitting for the Metro League finales - Aloha faces Southridge at Highland Park Middle School at 4:30 p.m. today (Thursday) while Westview plays at Jesuit at 4:30 p.m. today.

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