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TENNIS: Sunset and Jesuit's boys look forward to another great race
by: MILES VANCE, ON TARGET – Aloha senior Dimitri Anast is aiming for another big year in 2007. In 2006, he was second in the Metro League and reached the state quarterfinals.

The Metro League will feature a lot of new facets in 2007, among them a new classification, a new league alignment and a new home-and-away league schedule.

And the slimmed-down Metro will be even tougher than ever before, with Jesuit and Sunset's boys tennis teams ready to square off in pitched battle once again for the Metro title.

'Metro is always tough,' Aloha coach Kurt Lindner said. 'It's between Jesuit and Sunset. They both have incredible depth.'

'Jesuit's the power,' Sunset coach Lad Salness said. 'We'd like to turn the tables if we can, but Jesuit is pretty darned good. Spencer (Moore) and (Mike) Freeman will put them up 2-0 in most cases.'

'I think the Metro League is definitely one of the toughest leagues in the state, especially now with the Hillsboro schools out, it's tougher than ever,' agreed Jesuit coach Jeff Wood, the defending Metro champion. 'For teams to have a chance, they'll have to be able to compete in doubles to do it.'

While Jesuit and Sunset are the obvious favorites, Westview, Aloha and Beaverton all feature talented individuals with significant state tournament experience under their belts.

Following are previews of the varsity boys tennis teams at the six Metro League high schools.

ALOHA

ALOHA - Aloha placed third in the Metro at 7-2 in 2006 and takes a full head of steam into the 2007 season with a 5-0 non-league record.

Integral to the unbeaten start is a singles lineup that is a perfect 25-0 in preseason matches, losing just two sets.

'We should finish around the top 3 or 4 (in the league),' Aloha coach Kurt Lindner said. 'Jesuit, Sunset, us, and Westview are the main contenders.'

Senior Dimitri Anast anchors the Warriors at No. 1 singles a season after advancing to the state quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed before losing a three-set rematch with district champion Spencer Moore of Jesuit. Lindner said he expects Anast to compete with Moore and Beaverton's Reed Nibley for the 2007 Metro title.

'Dimitri has a very solid baseline game and a big forehand as a weapon,' Lindner said. 'He can win the league and should be a shoo-in for a state berth.'

Like Anast, senior Lauro Lim (No. 2) and sophomores Eric Liao (No. 3) and Jordan Ott (No. 4) have also gone undefeated for the Warriors in the preseason.

Seniors Jordan Fleig and Joseph Joo make up Aloha's top doubles duo, while junior Phillip Do and senior Jonathan Vo hold down the No. 2 spot. The Warriors have been flexible at No. 3 and 4 doubles with junior Jae Kim and sophomore Jacob Johnson entering league play in the third spot while junior Ben Haigh and senior Paul Jang are playing No. 4. Junior James Oh has also seen some doubles action in the preseason.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - Beaverton will be better.

Powered by the 1-2 punch of seniors Reed Nibley and Nathan Ramos in singles and a couple promising newcomers, the Beavers feel they have a chance to move up the Metro League ladder in 2007.

'I'd like to think we'll be competitive and win matches against everyone, but we'll have to see,' said Beaver coach Matt Hottman. But 'I do know this, with the amount of seniors we have and with the addition of some key new players, we will be much better than last year.'

Nibley, in his fourth year in the singles lineup, 'strikes the ball so purely (that) he can really dictate the tempo of a point and a match,' Hottman said. 'He's a tough player who has grow an immense amount since his freshman year.'

Hottman describes Ramos, meanwhile, as 'a grinder and a scrapper,' while adding that freshman Alen Suklje might challenge Ramos for the No. 2 singles slot. Junior transfer Thomas Overlund (from Southridge) will play at fourth singles.

The doubles lineup will include seniors Kevin Foley and Cole Fitzpatrick at No. 1, senior Brad Phillips and junior Nitin Agrawal at No. 2, juniors Tatsunori Nakashima and Dan Nguyen at No. 3, and senior Aidan Beers and sophomore Joe Springhetti at No. 4.

'Given what I've seen so far this year and what they've given me in the past, I completely trust every one of my players to fully compete with their brains and their heart. We'll be scrappy,' Hottman said.

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - Jesuit's boys team is ready to flex its muscles again in 2007, but the Crusaders know they'll have to be at their best if they hope to win the Metro League again.

'I guess we'll find out (how good we are) real quick on Thursday,' Jesuit coach Jeff Wood said in reference to his team's home match against powerful Sunset at 4:30 p.m. today. 'We're expecting (league play) to be tougher than ever this year and we welcome it.'

The 2007 Crusaders will be led in singles by junior Spencer Moore, the defending Metro champion and a state semifinalist a year ago, fellow junior Mike Freeman, and senior Mike McCoy, sophomore Roshen Warrier, freshman Thomas Dols, junior Brendan Gibbons and sophomore Vineet Mehndiratta.

'Spencer's been looking good. He proved last year that he plays his best in the big matches and we think that will be the case again this year,' Wood said.

Likewise, Wood believes that Freeman (who played doubles at state last season) is capable of competing with the league's top singles players.

'I think Freeman can play with those guys,' he said.

In doubles, the Crusaders will call on McCoy, Dols, Gibbons, Mehndiratta, senior Charlie Neville, sophomore Winston Neville, senior John Ware, junior Connor Cunningham, junior Jeremy McCarroll, junior Edwin Janes, sophomore Spencer Larson and swing players freshmen Jason Martel and Ian Juch, and sophomores Peter Hessler and Jon Spear.

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - Southridge finished in the top half of the buzz saw known as the Metro League last year and plans on doing so again in 2007, but knows that it won't be easy.

The Skyhawks field a solid singles lineup, a promising young doubles team and will rely on those strengths to power its success this season. That singles ladder includes senior Brett Boesch, sophomore Kyahn Daraee, junior James Kim (a Metro singles quarterfinalist in 2006) and junior Joe Kim.

'All the singles players are capable of winning if they would show a little more patience and concentrate on setting up points before trying to end them too soon,' said Southridge coach Michael Horton. 'They all seem like they want to get off the court as soon as possible.

'They also need to become more than a one-dimensional player and have a larger variety of shots in their bag. But anyone of them is capable of getting a state berth.'

The Skyhawks' top doubles duos include freshmen Braden Adcock and Kevin Funkhouser at No. 1, sophomore Jack Chou and freshman Kite Birzer at No. 2, junior Dexter Lam and freshman Sunanth Sakthivel at No. 3, and junior Paul Lim and sophomore Steven Chun at No. 4, though those last three teams could change partners and be about the same strength.

'The duo of Braden Adcock (and) Kevin Funkhouser has been a pleasant addition to the team this year,' Horton said. 'As freshmen, they have definitely had some experience on the court. The other doubles teams just lack experience in competitive play.'

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - So close.

Sunset, with eight juniors in its top 10, hopes to build off last year's 8-1 Metro mark (the Apollos lost only to Jesuit by 5-3), and that quality depth has coach Lad Salness thinking Sunset could push the Crusaders again.

'We're hoping to give them a run for their money,' Salness said. 'We're very deep with those eight juniors, and if you're going to beat Jesuit, you have to be strong all the way down the line.'

The Apollos' lineup starts with senior Albert Song, a four-year varsity member who played No. 2 singles behind graduated Lee Lenker the last two years. Lenker and Song played into the state doubles semifinals in 2006.

'Albert's been a great player for four years,' Salness said. 'He's a nice senior leader.'

Junior Chris Seibel and freshman Ted Bolton are battling for the No. 2 spot, and pushing too.

'The top three are pretty good and competitive,' Salness said. 'Every practice is pretty cutthroat. The kids relish the matches because they get to swing at somebody else.'

The 6-foot-6 Seibel, who played No. 2 doubles in '06, 'has done a fabulous job in his second year of full-time tennis,' Salness said, while sophomore Mike Furuya will play at No. 4.

The Apollos' doubles lineup has some fluctuation and is led by junior Eric Furuya and senior Rene Kaza. Juniors Tim Neal and Elliot Neal are at No. 2 (the Neals are not related although Tim is the younger brother of two-time girls state champion Laura Neal), junior Naveen Nanja and freshman Jeff Yeom are at No. 3, and juniors Evan Liu and Caleb Lu begin the season at No. 4.

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - Westview's looking up in 2007.

After finishing fourth in league last season, the Wildcats enter '07 with a unified crew and lofty expectations.

'I think this year's result may be better than last year's for us,' Westview coach Colin Arnold said. 'Due to league rules, we weren't able to match up with Sunset and Aloha using our best lineup last season. When it's strength versus strength, I like our chances.'

The Cats' strength is atop the singles lineup where seniors Jeff Cero and Prateek Bhide, who won the '06 state doubles consolation title, will play Nos. 1-2.

'(They) can both beat anybody in this league on any given day,' Arnold said.

Cero, who will play for Portland State next year, takes over with a work ethic that took him from being the last player cut as a freshman to No. 1 singles.

'Jeff is the 'gym rat', or 'court rat' in this case, of the team,' Arnold said. 'Everything he has accomplished has come from hard work and dedication but without losing the love of just playing tennis.'

Arnold said Cero might join up again with the determined Bhide.

'Prateek is the never-say-die-warrior on the team,' Arnold said. 'He plays the last point of the match with the same intensity as the first.'

The Wildcats feature plenty of depth, too, with junior Sean Crawford and senior Daniel Ogata playing Nos. 3-4 singles.

Senior Mike Reimann and sophomore Minje Shin are Westview's top doubles team. The Wildcats rotate the duos of seniors Bobby Sankhagowit and Shanik Fernando and sophomore John Lee and freshman Marcin Kowalski at second and third doubles. Junior Joon Namgung and sophomore Jumpei Nishida are No. 4.