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Larner leads Jesuit to second at 6A state

The Jesuit freshman wins the Class 6A singles title on Saturday
by: John Lariviere AT STATE – Jesuit freshman Erin Larner won the Class 6A state singles title on Saturday.

BEAVERTON - She did not drop her racket. She did not let out a bellowing cry of celebration.

When Jesuit freshman Erin Larner won the Class 6A girls state singles crown at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center Saturday, she simply greeted her opponent at the net with a sense of relief.

'It's just a relief to get it out of the way,' Larner said.

Larner beat Lincoln sophomore Ariana Fardanesh - who she had beaten twice earlier in the year (once in the regular season and once in the district final) - in three sets to become Jesuit's third girls singles champion, and the school's first since 2007 when Rika Mehndiratta won the title.

After looking unflappable in days one and two of the tournament - she defeated Lincoln freshman Cam Kincaid 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and Century senior Katie Edwards 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals - Larner dropped the first set of Saturday's title match before dominating the second and third sets for a 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory.

'I knew I wasn't playing my game in the first set, and I knew I needed to change it up,' Larner said. 'I was saying, 'New set. You need to start over.' I woke up in the second set and started to play better.'

For Larner, who came to Jesuit with an abundance of tournament experience, it was her 26th victory in as many matches in her first prep season.

That experience, she said, helped her stay poised in a setting that would have most freshman playing tight.

'I've played in big tournaments before,' she said. 'This is a big tournament, but it was different for me. I was nervous at times I probably shouldn't have been, but there were times I wasn't nervous.'

With three years to go in her high school career, the sky is the limit for Larner. Jesuit has never had a four-time singles champion; Erryn Weggenman (1994-96) won three state titles.

'It'll be fun,' Larner said. 'Now I have a state title under my belt so I can relax.'

Jesuit also came away from Saturday's festivities with a third-place finish on the doubles side.

Senior Sanji Rao and freshman Darby Rosette capped their tournament run by defeating St. Mary's senior-freshman tandem of Katy Krauel and Sierra Lemon in straight sets Saturday morning at Tualatin Hills.

Rao and Rosette entered as the tournament's No. 3 seed, and blazed their way to two easy victories - 6-1, 6-0 wins in both the second round and quarterfinals - before falling to Metro League champions Kadie and Allie Hueffner of Lincoln in Friday's semifinal.

'I think we gave 100 percent, and when you give 100 percent you can't ask for anything more,' Rao said.

Their 6-3, 6-4 loss to the Hueffner twins was their second in as many weeks. They were defeated by the Lincoln sophomores in the semifinal round of the district tournament May 15.

Rosette said she was nervous at times in her first state tournament, but that those nerves didn't prevent her from playing her game.

'She played extremely well,' Rao said of Rosette. 'She has a great three years in front of her; hopefully she can win a state title before she's done.'

In the team race, Lincoln won a second straight 6A crown with 20 points, while Jesuit was a close second with 19.