Austin Evans and Ernie Hernandez switch off battling the best players in the Three Rivers League.

by: DAN BROOD / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Canby sophomore Austin Evans, shown in a match against Sherwood exchange student Anders Joergensen, is splitting time with junior Ernie Hernandez at No. 1 singles.When Canby boys tennis coach Kevin Vedder replaces Austin Evans with Ernie Hernandez at No. 1 singles, or vice versa, it’s not because one player is necessarily more deserving of the top court than the other.

It’s usually because one player is more deserving of a break.

“I haven’t let them stay at number one for more than a few weeks at a time,” Vedder said. “It would be tough. I don’t even know if they look forward to it.”

In a stacked Three Rivers League that features club-level and year-round tennis players atop most lineups, success has proven elusive for Evans and Hernandez on the two most competitive singles courts.

Evans, a sophomore who is also a member of the high school’s basketball program, takes advantage of his sheer athleticism to make plays in tennis. Hernandez, a junior, has improved in many aspects of his game since last year.

And while both have shown mental fortitude against some of the best boys tennis players in the state, Vedder acknowledged that a win at No. 1 singles appears virtually “unattainable” for the Cougars this season.

“Many of (their opponents) play year-round and have lessons year-round,” said the first-year coach, who replaced Dan Nugent at the helm. “For us, we have recreational players who want to be better. It’s not their fault, and it’s a really good learning experience. But there’s nothing magical that can be done in five weeks when these other kids have years of year-round experience.”

Indeed, Vedder said tough opposition has masked his team’s improvement over the course of this year.

“I’m happy with the results so far,” he said. “The kids have good attitudes, they’re showing up and wanting to get better. And we’ve still got another few weeks. We’re about halfway through the season, and I’m hoping that we see some guys coming to life.”

The team was slated to face Oregon City on the road April 21 before meeting Grant on the road April 23 and hosting Lakeridge on April 24 in a match that was originally scheduled for April 17 but postponed due to inclement weather.

Seniors' success

Canby has engineered more success on the third and fourth singles courts, where Zac Cummings and Sam Hintz are striving to make the most of their senior campaigns.

Both players snagged three-set triumphs in the Cougars’ 6-2 loss to Portland-Grant in their conference opener at home April 7. Cummings dropped the opening set at No. 3 singles but bounced back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory, and Hintz dominated the final set of a 6-1, 2-6, 6-0 win at No. 4.

Four days later, Hintz earned the only point of Canby’s 7-1 loss to Clackamas on the road with a 6-2, 6-3 decision on the fourth court. Cummings came up short at No. 3, falling 6-4 in the third set.

“They’ve both won a few matches, and they’ve done fine,” Vedder said. “There’s rarely a situation where they’re getting blown out.”

Evans and Cummings emerged victorious in the Cougars’ home match April 14 against Lake Oswego, which prevailed 6-2. Evans won on the second singles court, 6-0, 6-1, while Cummings secured a 6-0, 6-4 decision at No. 3.

Doubles dilemma

Jake Castro has plenty of talent to be a successful doubles player. What he doesn’t have is a steady collaborator.

The senior has experimented with three different partners this season, a sign of the Cougars’ overall inexperience in doubles play.

“Jake’s been a lone wolf,” Vedder said. “He’s probably the best doubles guy out there, but we’ve yet to find him a consistent partner.”

Castro tested his skills in singles play during Canby’s preseason schedule, but Vedder said “he has more of a doubles game.”

“He’s a competitive guy and wants to win,” Vedder said of Castro. “And the good thing is there are still some matches left.”

Castro played alongside Hernandez and Hintz for parts of last year, but those two players have been asked to compete primarily in singles this season.

Vedder also said he’s reluctant to split sophomores Ben Thompson and Brett Wagnon because they’ve shown promising potential as partners.

“They’re the future of the team,” he said.

Numbers game

With the Cougars entering the second half of their TRL slate, Vedder has begun thinking about the future of the program.

The first-year coach noted that his junior varsity roster has fewer than 10 players this year and added that it’s challenging for him to attract students to the team because he is not a teacher at CHS.

“A lot of these other schools have 25 guys on JV,” he said. “We need to get some more kids out for the team.”




Three Rivers League

April 7: Grant 6, CANBY 2

April 9: WEST LINN 8, Canby 0

April 11: CLACKAMAS 7, Canby 1

April 14: Lake Oswego 6, CANBY 2

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