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Tennis season hitting full stride for Vikings

Forest Grove enjoys a solid start to the boys tennis season

Now the Vikings get to start figuring out how all of their puzzle pieces fit together.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES
 - Forest Grove's Kyle Fasching hits a forehand during a doubles match against West Albany on Monday.

With the season hitting full stride and the district tournament starting to loom in the distance, Forest Grove boys tennis coach Peter McKinnon is analyzing his lineup and figuring out who should play where.

The Vikings have gotten off to a respectable 3-3 start this spring, and with some players on the move in terms of improvement, their best days could still be ahead of them.

On Monday, they faced a double whammy in hosting Greater Valley Conference leader West Albany on one of the hottest days of the year, when temperatures soared into the high 80s. The contest was the resumption of a match that got started and then called off in last week’s cool, wet weather.

Though the Bulldogs won 7-1 on Monday to keep their undefeated record intact, Forest Grove had its bright spots.

Among them, Doug Wilbur fought off some illness for a comeback win at second singles and the Vikings’ third and fourth doubles pairings played tight sets in their losses.

“We’re happy with this year,” McKinnon said as varsity play started to wind down. “The kids are playing good. We’ve been winning the matches we should ... and we’re being competitive in the tougher matches, so making them nervous.”NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES
 - Forest Grove's Mitchell Faris hits a backhand during his singles match on Monday in Greater Valley Conference action against West Albany.

Wilbur is one of just three seniors who are varsity regulars in the lineup this spring. On Monday, he dropped his first set 6-1 to West Albany’s Matthew Shreve, but he rallied for 6-2 and 6-3 wins in the final two sets.

“I just concentrated on the small little things that you have to do, like moving your feet, getting your racquet back,” Wilbur said of what helped him turn the match around.

He and Mitchell Faris, a junior who returns as the team’s top singles player from 2015, have been playing singles this season, but they may soon be teaming up. Though the boys haven’t played doubles together this year, the two do have some experience as a pairing, having played as doubles partners two years ago.

“I’m thinking of doing doubles for districts just because I think Doug and I have a better chance of going to state if we’re doubles than singles,” Faris explained.

Wilbur is also pretty keen to make it to state, as his brother Cameron and sister Lauren both qualified for state before graduating from high school, which had Wilbur joking that he needs to continue “the Wilbur dynasty.”

“If not, I’m going to be that one that didn’t go to state,” he said with a laugh. “A little bit of pressure.”

At No. 3 doubles, Ken Balsiger and Reid Schneider dropped a close match, 7-5, 6-4, to Tanner Fromke and Josh Rondeau. The No. 4 doubles pairing of Kimo Fong and Jonas Santana also put up a good fight, losing 6-4, 6-3, to Kyler Bauserman and Ethan Madsen.

Balsiger offers another interesting storyline on this year’s squad. He turned out this spring as a senior newcomer but immediately cracked the varsity lineup at fourth doubles and has since moved up to third doubles.

The Vikings also have a promising freshman class this season, with several youngsters getting in some varsity matches.

On Monday, McKinnon said he expected to be making some lineup changes soon — “reshuffling the decks,” as he put it. Results of Tuesday’s match against McMinnville were unavailable, but the Vikings have a nonleague contest scheduled at Woodburn on Thursday, which will give McKinnon a chance to start tweaking that lineup.

“Some kids have improved more than others and some have even been flat or sometimes they’re kind of tailing off a little bit for whatever reason,” McKinnon said. “So we’re going to have to do some reshuffling here this week and next week.”