Wilsonville's top singles player and top doubles team took divergent paths toward state qualification.
Seniors Aidan Green and Kyle Andrews, Wilsonville's No. 1 doubles team, have received lessons from renowned coaches and have been playing tennis for a long time. On the other hand, No. 1 singles player and sophomore Jack Roche didn't pick up a tennis racquet until a day after winning the 2016 boys basketball state title.
Nevertheless, both parties maximized their potential, and, at the Northwest Oregon Conference district tournament, made sure their season would last another week.
Green and Andrews placed second in the conference while Roche placed fourth and the Wilsonville boys tennis team finished third in the district.
In the 2016 season, Green and 2016 graduate Quinn Everts earned third place at the district tournament and qualified for state. Andrews, on the other hand, was one of the better singles players in the league the last couple years but couldn't quite muster a state tournament berth.
With Andrews aspiring a state qualification and Green needing a partner, teaming-up was a no-brainer.
"It was the obvious choice after Quinn left because he's the best on the team by far so I'm really happy to be working with him," Green said of Andrews.
With little time to practice together due to incessant rain, both players say it took them awhile to coalesce on the court. And yet, due to their strong play during the regular season, they earned the second seed at the district tournament.
Eventually, they figured out how to accentuate their contrasting skill sets.
"Because he (Green) has experience playing doubles he's really good at the net whereas in singles I play back. It worked really well because I can set him up from the back and he's great at the net. And he's super athletic," Andrews said.
Wilsonville reached the semifinals of the tournament, and in turn qualified for state, in convincing fashion.
The duo won their first two matches 6-0, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-2 before defeating La Salle's Leeb and Nguyen in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, they went up against Sandy's doubles team of Camony and Benson. The Pioneers hung tough with the Wildcats in the first set — knotting the score at 5-5 — but Andrews and Green raised their level of play thereafter, won the final two games of the set and vanquished Sandy 6-2 in the second set.
"We knew we were the stronger players and they were trying to get in our heads and so we just had to push through and play tennis," Andrews said.
In the finals, Wilsonville faced the No. 1 seed in the district — Kansala and McCara of Sandy.
The Wildcats trailed 3-1 early but crawled back to tie the match 5-5 after Green uncorked a few fast-paced first serves.
However, Sandy won a close game to take a 6-5 lead and finished off the set to capture the 7-5 win.
Despite losing the opening set, Green and Andrews were happy with how they played.
"It shows that they can't trample us. You could tell from their body language that they thought they would be walking all over us. I think when we pulled the really close loss, even though it was a loss, it was a good loss and all of the points were close," Green said.
Sandy's combination of strong net play, unpredictability and good defense proved potent in the second set and the Pioneers pulled off the 7-5, 6-2 win.
"They were good at mixing it up. One point they would stay where they were and another point they would poach. It's hard to decide where to go because you didn't know where they were going," Andrews said.
For Green, the Wildcats had already accomplished what they had set out to do.
"I really just cared about getting to state honestly. So I'm really happy that we did that and getting second is the cherry on top," he said.
The son of Wilsonville boys basketball coach Chris Roche, Jack Roche is primarily a basketball player and doesn't play tennis much in the offseason.
But he's established a brand of tennis that requires consistency, patience and power to upend.
Roche almost never hits errors, plays stellar defense and coaxes opponents into gaffes.
"I wouldn't say I'm a great tennis player because I play a really ugly style. I try to hit everything back and force the error," Roche said.
And throughout the regular season he defeated more experienced players and earned the district tournament's No. 3 seed.
Though coaches stacked some of the better players in league in Roche's corner of the bracket, the Wilsonville sophomore still won a gauntlet of early round matches and qualified for state. Roche beat Dettmer of La Salle 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the first round, Olson of St. Helens 6-2, 7-6 in the second round and Yusupov of Hillsboro 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
"I'm surprised because there are a lot of great players here like the guy in the quarterfinals from Hillsboro. He's a great player. I'm surprised by it but going into every match I want to have confidence and think I'm gonna win even if I'm going up against a guy like the one-seed in our district. Even though he's a great player and probably way more skilled than me I just want to go in with the mindset of competing and giving it my best shot," Roche said.
Roche did his best to make life difficult for Sandy No. 1 seed Dante DeSimone in the district semifinals. DeSimone possesses picturesque groundstrokes and a big serve but Roche consistently returned those shots to the other side of the court.
Still, DiSimone won the match 6-1, 6-4.
"You know he's going to hit winners and winners and winners so you just have to get everything back that you can," Roche said.
In the third place match, Roche won the opening set but looked exhausted late in the match and lost 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.
"I think I hit a wall in the last match in the third set," Roche said.
Beyond all of the success he's achieved in just over a year of playing, Roche simply enjoys the sport.
"Tennis is a fun sport. It's a blast. I have a bunch of friends that do it. It's just a great experience," he said.
Among other notable Wilsonville performances, singles player Zach Brehm reached the district quarterfinals, the doubles team of Caden Mormon and Brett Axness won four consolation round matches en route to a consolation doubles title, Nick Huberd and Taylor Bell reached the second round, singles players Nathan Ogden and Luke Spears also reached the second round and Hugo Romero reached the semifinals of the consolation bracket.