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Ready to turn up the heat again

GIRLS TENNIS: Defending state champion Jesuit is a huge favorite again in 2007
by: MILES VANCE, SENIOR LEADER – Jesuit senior Rika Mehndiratta hopes to add Metro League and Class 6A state titles to her resume this year, but will face strong challenges from several players within the Metro itself this year.

The big bad Crusaders are back, and despite the fact that the Metro League has several other strong girls tennis teams, it's obvious that no one is going to stop Jesuit in 2007.

'They graduated no one from last year's team, and their depth is unbelievable,' said Beaverton coach Katy Robinson.

'Jesuit continues to reload with quality talent and will easily win the Metro League,' said Aloha coach Todd Powell. 'There will be nothing stopping Jesuit towards winning another Metro title. Their overall depth is matched by none in the league.'

But what happens after that is much more a matter of conjecture.

'I think our league comes down to who can last for second behind Jesuit,' Sunset coach Bryan Lurie said. 'I think it's pretty even between the next three teams.'

'The Metro League is once again tough top to bottom,' Powell added.

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

ALOHA

ALOHA - Bolstered by a solid singles lineup and developing doubles teams, Aloha put together a strong preseason, going 5-1.

Now, the Warriors look to carry that momentum into the 2007 Metro League season.

'I think we are a little young in doubles but improving daily,' Aloha coach Todd Powell said. 'We should be in the middle of the pack (and) with a break or two, we could end up in the upper end.'

Aloha's singles play is led by senior Cherry Santos at No. 1, who Powell believes has 'an outside chance at qualifying for state this year. Santos, the team's No. 1 a year ago, lost in the first round of the district tournament in '06.

'She has improved her concentration and improved her overall game,' he said.

Juniors Jessica Gonzales (at No. 2) and Amra Salihovic (at No. 3) and sophomore Ashley Azadah round out the Warriors' singles lineup.

Aloha also features a first doubles pair in seniors Savannah Bergquist and Rebecca Bumpas that Powell thinks will make a postseason push. Bumpas and her partner last year reached the second round of the district tournament.

'Savannah Bergquist and Rebecca Bumpas also have a chance at state in doubles,' he said. 'They both work very hard and have good athletic ability.'

The rest of the doubles lineup will include juniors Cynthia Voung and Robin Dryer at No. 2, juniors Brittany Kramer and Cynthia Cha at No. 3, and sophomores Sarah Lee and Eurie Houng in the fourth spot.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - The 2006 season was a keeper for the Beaverton girls team, with the Beavers posting a sterling 8-1 league record and capping its year with a consolation championship at state for then-sophomore Krishna Veni.

Beaverton graduated nine seniors from that team, but nonetheless believes it has the tools to make 2007 another good year in the new Metro League.

'This team is very young after graduating nine seniors from last year's second-place team but … if the girls continue to improve and work hard, this team could finish in the top half of the league,' said Beaverton coach Katy Robinson.

Veni, now a junior leads the way on the singles ladder, while senior Colleen Suklje will play at No. 2, sophomore Izzy Director is at No. 3 and sophomore Lisa Ding at No. 4.

Veni 'is a strong baseliner who has really improved her footwork and gamesmanship, and she will compete with the top singles players in the league for the district title,' Robinson said, adding that Suklje 'is a veteran singles player who knows how to compete with any player at any level.'

In doubles, the Beavers will call on seniors Monica Nash and Pauline Caprasse at No. 1, juniors Anna Berenbeym and Julie Sullivan at No. 2, sophomores Kendall Jackson and Jaimie Waymire at No. 3, and senior Caitlan Fetzer and junior Hannah Delaney at No. 4.

'All of the doubles teams are very competitive and, on any given day, could challenge the top teams in the league,' Robinson added.

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - Whether you love 'em or whether you hate 'em, you've got to admit that the Jesuit girls tennis team is a pretty impressive bunch.

The Crusaders return state singles runner-up Rika Mehndiratta, state doubles runner-up Clare Dodge and three other players who reached at least the state doubles quarterfinals, Kristen Wong, Steffanie Mortera and Haley Mooney.

'The key to our success this season is our team unity,' said Jesuit coach Kirsten Ruchaber. 'All the girls work very hard and use each other to push and challenge themselves on the court. I couldn't have asked for a nicer group of tennis players.'

Mehndiratta, a senior, and freshman Meghan Moore will provide a potent 1-2 punch at the top of the singles lineup, with juniors Ellen Mader and Wong at No. 3 and No. 4 singles.

'I think both of them will compete for the league title and also the state title,' Ruchaber said of Mehndiratta and Moore. 'They both have phenomenal singles games. Both are very strong at the baseline and are not afraid to come to the net.'

In doubles play, the Crusaders will call on Dodge (a senior) and Mortera (a sophomore) at No. 1, junior Leslie Mallory and Mooney (a sophomore) at No. 2, junior Kristine Leavens and freshman Kayva Crawford at No. 3, and juniors Molly Wilson and Jasmin Mitchell at No. 4.

'I have some strong doubles teams who have state experience and hope to qualify as many teams as possible,' Ruchaber added.

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - The Metro League has always been challenging, but the Southridge girls know that 2007 is the start of something even greater.

'We've got a tougher season ahead of us because of the new alignment,' said Southridge coach Chuck Eidenschink, referring to the new six-team Class 6A Metro. 'I think that, if the league was the same as last year, we'd be at least one or two wins better than last year, but this year, we'll have to wait and see.'

The Skyhawks bring back nine players who participated in last year's Metro district tournament, led by No. 1 singles player Michelle Kim (a senior) and top doubles team Sylvia Kim and Megan Funkhouser (both juniors who reached the district quarterfinals in '06).

Michelle Kim 'likes to hit the ball hard but she's been inconsistent. When she's on and they all go in, it's great,' Eidenschink said, adding that Sylvia Kim and Funkhouser nearly beat Jesuit's top team a year ago and are 'a year older, a year faster and a year stronger' now.

The rest of the singles lineup includes junior Boonyapa Purt at No. 2, freshman Sophie Chou at No. 3 ('She's got a very good serve, the best on the team, and very good groundstrokes,' Eidenschink said), and senior Jill Clausen at No. 4.

In doubles, it will be juniors Sari Matisoff and Lara Nassar at No. 2, juniors Frances Lee and Joyce Yang at No. 3 and freshmen Monica Rabii and Yassi Seyedhossini at No. 4.

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - The post-Laura Neal era begins now at Sunset.

While there is no replacing the two-time state champ Neal, the Apollos return one of the league's top singles players in sophomore Katie Lorish, a district semifinalist a year ago.

'It will be interesting to see if she can close that gap,' said first-year Sunset coach Bryan Lurie, who was an Apollo assistant last season. 'After Jesuit's 1 and 2, she should compete pretty strongly.'

With another year of maturity under her belt, Lorish also looks for a better performance at state, where she lost in the first round a year ago.

'She's very raw as far as tapped potential, but has made lots of improvements from last spring,' Lurie said. 'Physically she seems to be a lot stronger. She has very powerful strokes.'

Lurie also expects a strong season out of No. 2 singles player Anna Becker - she is 'very athletic and has a strong game,' he said, while senior Jordan Rousseau and Lexi Nielsen complete the singles lineup at Nos. 3 and 4.

Senior Jenny Jen and junior Catherine Cai return at first doubles and could also contend for a state berth.

'They have a chance to do well,' Lurie said. 'Another year of playing together will only help them.'

Seniors Danielle Crabtree and Alex Rios are at No. 2 doubles, followed by sophomore Hannah Neal and junior Brooke Luallin at No. 3, while sophomores Madeline Cook and Madysen Zitterberg close out a solid lineup.

'We have a very balanced team,' Lurie said. 'Our doubles should do pretty well on the team level.'

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - Westview may not be a big factor in the 2007 team race, but coach Julie Ray knows her team won't roll over for anyone.

'It's going to be tough for us against Sunset, Jesuit and Beaverton, but we will compete for every match,' Ray said.

The Wildcats are led by a pair of experienced singles players in sophomore Anusha Neelam at No. 1 and junior Emma Kitchen at No. 2. Both were first-round losers in the Metro district tournament a year ago but expect to be much better in 2007.

'Both are quiet, competitive and solid,' Ray said. 'Anusha's groundstrokes are solid and powerful. When she's on, she's on. With a year under her belt, her mental game should be more consistent.'

Consistency, Ray said, is the key to Kitchen's success.

'Emma can compete against anyone and loves a challenge,' she said 'Her game is versatile and she's able to adapt. I rarely see her play an off game or lose it mentally.'

Westview does not feature a senior in its varsity lineup but does have four juniors that head its doubles crew in No. 1s Melenaite Pongi and Grace Jo and No. 2s Sasha Rector and Tia Secasiu. The rest of the doubles lineup includes sophomore Vivian Nguyen and junior Allison Strickland at No. 3 doubles, while junior Tracy Anastas and freshman Varunika Bhargava are the fourth doubles team.