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Crusaders battle past Apollos

Jesuit wins 8-0 as both teams use modified lineups in Metro League play
by: MILES VANCE, SHE’S READY — Jesuit freshman Sanjana Rao smacks a return in her match against Sunset on Friday.

CEDAR MILL - Playing against the Jesuit girls tennis team is, to put it nicely, daunting at best.

The Crusaders feature two returning state finalists and seven state qualifiers from a year ago, and if healthy, are odds-on favorites to defend the Class 6A team title they won in 2007 for the third straight season.

Yet that was exactly the challenge Sunset's girls had before them last Friday at Sunset High School. And while Jesuit walked away with the expected victory - the team's eighth straight in league play and 11th overall in 2008 - by an 8-0 margin, the Apollos went down swinging with their best effort.

They also did it with a slightly revamped lineup that included neither of its top two singles players - junior Katie Lorish and senior Anna Becker - and against a Jesuit lineup that was missing sophomore No. 1 Megan Moore, the 2007 state runner-up and defending Metro League champion.

The Crusaders sent junior Steffanie Mortera - a reigning state doubles champ - into the fray at first singles and she responded with a straight-set victory, taking out Sunset sophomore Connie Cai - normally half of Sunset's top doubles team - 6-0, 6-3.

At second singles, Jesuit freshman Sanjana Rao spread her wings for a 6-0, 6-0 win over Sunset senior Hannah Neal. Despite the final score, Rao knew she would have to be ready to take on Neal.

'I've played her a lot in challenges and tournaments and stuff,' Rao said. 'We've had some tough matches, so yeah, I was happy with my performance.'

Rao said she felt her overall game was solid against Neal and that consistency played an important role in her victory.

'Overall, my game was very good,' she said. 'I was happy with my serve and my forehand and I was able to finish a couple points at the net.'

For her part, Neal knew she was in for a challenge and not disappointed with her effort.

'I was just trying to play my best, try to get some shots in and get some points,' Neal said. 'I just wanted to play well. And I played all right. I hit some good shots, but my opponent was very good.'

The Crusaders kept rolling from there, too, with senior Ellen Mader racing past freshman Lisa Cronk 6-1, 6-0 at third singles, and senior Kristine Leavens a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Apollo freshman Namitha Badu at fourth singles.

Jesuit, traditionally strong in doubles - the Crusaders took all four Metro League doubles berths to state a year ago - was absolutely that against Sunset. At first doubles, it was senior Leslie Mallory and junior Haley Mooney who took over to beat Sunset junior Madyson Zetterberg and senior Brooke Luallin 6-1, 6-3. Next up, the sophomore duo of Kayva Crawford and Mary O'Donnell did their part at second doubles, shutting out Sunset junior Madeline Cook and her freshman partner Mariel Abbene 6-0, 6-0.

Sophomore Alice Erbling and senior Jasmin Mitchell stepped up at third doubles and won another straight-set victory, this time knocking off Apollo freshmen Samantha Nelson and freshman Christine Melcher 6-1, 6-2. And at fourth doubles, it was Jesuit sophomore Annie Wilcox and freshman Jessica Chau who defeated their Apollo opponents, sophomore Vivian Tsang and freshman Grace Gao, 6-2, 6-2.

Despite the loss, the Apollos - who fell to 4-2 in Metro League play - left looking forward to the upcoming district tournament and happy with their season to date.

'We're looking forward to (district) - it will be fun,' Neal said. 'We've had a good season so far. We've been having fun.'

In upcoming matches, which weather permitting will mark the end of the regular season, Jesuit plays at Westview at 4:30 p.m. today (Thursday) and Sunset plays at Beaverton at 4:30 p.m. today.