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The Cavalier duo advance to state in doubles

by: JOHN DENNY - Clackamas seniors Hana Watari (left) and Claire Walker did themselves proud at the recent Three Rivers League District Tennis Tournament, placing fourth and earning a berth at the Class 6A State Tournament.Clackamas seniors Claire Walker and Hana Watari and their teammates on Clackamas’ girls tennis team have made quite a run this spring.

Walker and Watari placed fourth in doubles at last week’s Three Rivers League District Tournament and they helped their team go 8-4 and finish third — behind state powers Lake Oswego (12-0) and Lakeridge (10-2) — in TRL dual matches.

Walker and Watari earned a trip to the Class 6A State Tournament with their high district tournament placing.

It’s Clackamas’ strongest showing in girls tennis in years.

Walker and Watari’s fourth place finish and state tournament berth is all the more impressive because they are relatively newcomers to the sport of tennis and they’ve proven that they can hold their own in competition with girls who have played club tennis for years.

“We’ve never had a lesson anywhere and [to make state with the limited experience we’ve had] is really rare,” Walker observed.

“I didn’t start playing tennis until my freshman year [in high school],” Watari said. “I wanted a sport to play in the spring, so I decided to play tennis.”

Watari fell so much in love with the sport that she gave up basketball in this her senior year “because I wanted to focus on tennis. And it paid off!”

The Cavalier duo breezed to the district semifinals, winning in straight sets over Kelli Crist and Mehek Stehi of Lake Oswego (6-1, 6-0), Megan Brown and Annaliese Laurila of Grant (6-0, 6-1) and Nicole Campbell and Macie Coronel of West Linn (6-4, 6-3) to advance to the semifinals.

And in the semifinals, they gave 2013 district champions Caroline Dorman and Blair Dozois of Lake Oswego their toughest match of the district tournament before yielding, 6-2, 7-5. No other opponent had won more than one game from Dorman and Dozois, who went on to top schoolmates Celia Moore and Claire Murphy in the district final, 6-3, 6-2.

Walker and Watari lost to the district tournament’s top seed, Lakeridge seniors Brittany Dales and Stacey Strovink, in the third-place final, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4.

Walker explained the success of her doubles team: “We put in a ton of practice. We practice every day with the team, and we play together on weekends too.”

Walker and Watari say that a big reason they have been successful is that they don’t get rattled.

“No matter what happens, we don’t let it bother us,” Walker said. “A lot of teams fall apart when things go wrong, but not us. We play steady the whole game, no matter what.”

“We’ve had lots of games where we’ve come from behind,” Watari noted.

Walker and Watari say they both win points on serve and they typically win points through aggressive play.

Walker and Watari take pride in their Clackamas High team’s two league wins over West Linn this year.

“They had the district champion singles player, and we still beat them,” Watari observed. “It was close, but we beat them.”

“We think it’s the best league finish Clackamas [girls tennis] has ever had,” said Walker. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Among those vying for the Cavaliers this spring were junior Anna Walker in first singles, junior Breanna Nichols in second singles, senior Andrea Tran in third singles, seniors Ashley Nickell and Rebekah Piece in fourth singles, Claire Walker and Watari in first doubles, seniors Tracy Ku and Stephanie Chan in second doubles, junior Michelle Turc and sophomore Brittany Ly in third doubles, and sophomores Erin McDonald and Diana Kim in fourth doubles.

Walker and Watari have a week to prepare for state, which runs May 16-18 at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

Walker said of their goals at state, “We’ll start small. Everyone’s good when you get to state. So our first goal will be to get past the first round.”

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