The Apollos battle gamely, but fall to the three-time defending 6A state champion Crusaders
CEDAR MILL - The Jesuit boys tennis team is ready.
The Crusaders rolled through their non-league schedule without a misstep, won the annual Jesuit-Metro-State Team Tennis Championship, and just completed an unbeaten Metro League season last week.
That said, Jesuit knows there will be tests ahead in the Metro District Tournament - set Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center - and at the state tournament the following week.
'We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but I think we're playing pretty well,' said Jesuit senior Gram Leahy, the team's No. 1 singles player over the second half of the season. 'The Metro League is, in my opinion, the toughest league in the state. If you're qualifying from the Metro League, then you're definitely worthy.'
'We are definitely ready for districts,' said Jesuit coach Jeff Wood. 'We hope to qualify as many as possible, but it will be tough.'
Jesuit (12-0 in league play) completed its perfect Metro run with an 8-0 win over Sunset at Sunset High School on May 5, a win that extended the Crusaders' league winning streak to 71 matches and seven straight Metro crowns.
That said, the Apollos played well, battled hard and believe there are big things ahead for them too at the coming district tournament. The loss left Sunset at 7-5 in league play and tied for third behind Jesuit and Lincoln.
'Jesuit is the best team in the state, but our kids all competed at every level,' said Sunset coach Lad Salness. District 'will be great for Sunset. The rain made things slow for us to start the season, but the players came back with wins over all the other Metro teams in the second round.'
In the two teams' May 5 match at Sunset, the Crusaders - who have also won the past three Class 6A state titles - swept all four singles matches in straight sets, then followed suit in doubles despite Sunset's best efforts.
In the first singles match, Leahy stepped up to knock off Apollo junior Joe Remington 6-1, 6-1 after beating him just 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of league play.
'I was pretty fired up to play my best because he really took it to the first time,' Leahy said. 'It's always fun because he's one of the more consistent players in the league and I always look forward to playing him.'
'He's tough. He just has that consistent, accurate play,' Remington said of Leahy. 'He just keeps it in play and moves you around. There were too many deuces and break points that I just missed.'
Likewise, both coaches said that it was Leahy's consistency that carried the day.
'I am very proud of Joe and the work he has done this year (but) Gram just won the close games,' Salness said.
'Gram Leahy is playing much better than the first round of matches,' Wood added. 'And his match with Joe Remington shows just that.'
Jesuit's Peder Gram, who played No. 1 through the first half of the season, knocked off Max Lee 6-3, 6-1 at second singles, Connor Leahy followed suit with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Sunset's Mitch Yannello at No. 3, and Jesuit's Sam Malech did the same in beating Saawan Patel 6-1, 6-2.
In doubles, Jesuit's Nick Biggi and Sam Stephenson knocked off Ian Paik and Brian McKittrick 6-3, 6-1 at No. 1, Terry Larson and Nic Mulflur raced past Thomas Kim and Zach Sundara 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2, Nathan Lortz and Mark Mallory swept Anish Bilankanti and David Choi 6-0, 6-1 at third doubles, and at No. 4, Nick Muench and Carson Hall edged Charles Lee and Hallmark 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the closest match of the day.
Now, both teams are setting their sights on district, and both expect to perform well.
'Our doubles teams have a chance to play well at district,' Salness said. 'Ian Paik and Brian McKittrick only have losses to Jesuit, and the addition of Joe Remington and Mitch Yannello playing doubles should also be a powerful team.'
'We've had some good success playing doubles already,' Remington added. 'I think we have a shot.'