The Huskies succeed with adaptability, particularly in singles

by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Thanks in part to No. 1 singles player Austin Berkey (shown), the North Marion boys tennis team won its first four league matches of the season.Without its No. 2 singles player for most of the first half of the season, the North Marion boys tennis team could have struggled.

Instead, the Huskies seemingly masked Ethan Berkey’s absence with elevated play across the board.

“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise,” first-year coach Caleb Barnes said of the sophomore’s time out of the lineup. “It made it tougher on us early, but I think it’ll pay dividends once we get to districts.”

Barnes said North Marion was able to give its third and fourth singles players valuable experience on higher courts in its six matches without Berkey, who was working to restore his academic eligibility.

And now that he’s back, the team appears even more formidable. The Huskies won their first four designated league matches, and they charged into a challenging stretch of conference play with optimism for the postseason.

Even without Berkey in its league opener against Independence-Central at home April 7, North Marion managed to snag a 5-3 victory with three points in singles and two in doubles.

Since his return, the Huskies have earned 8-0 shutouts of Madras and Salem-Blanchet Catholic and captured a 4-4 tiebreaker win over Turner-Cascade in a match that was decided by total set victories.

Berkey fortifies an already talented singles lineup that features his older brother, senior Austin Berkey, at the No. 1 spot.

The brothers are striving for repeat appearances at the OSAA small-school single championships.

Last year, after taking runner-up honors in the district tournament, Austin Berkey fell in the consolation finals of the state tournament to North Bend’s Keaten Baker in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.

Ethan Berkey placed third at the district tournament but lost his state play-in match to Oregon Episcopal’s Nat Serrurier, 7-5, 6-0.

“They show up to practice and work really hard,” Barnes said of the brothers. “They’re both improving and working on different stuff, and they’re hard on themselves. They play at a very high level. And Having Ethan back is great for Austin because it gives him someone of equal talent. They both exceed my talent.”

Barnes, a Texas native who attended Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla., played tennis in high school and applied for the coaching gig at North Marion following the departure of Lance Berkey after one season.

Barnes serves as the security director for the school district, where he has worked for the last two years. He is also a member of the Huskies football coaching staff.

Barnes praised his singles players for their adaptability. Trevor Kauffman is back on the third court after a successful run at No. 2, and Pablo Francisco has returned to the fourth court following an encouraging stretch at No. 3.

“We have a chance every time we go out there to win all the singles matches,” Barnes said. “If our singles takes care of business like we should, then we win. But we’ve got some good doubles teams, too.”

Dillan Jackson and Grant Barrow have held the No. 1 doubles position for most of the season.

“They’ll be a team to watch out for at districts,” Barnes said.

Barnes added that Kyle Torian and Klayton Pippert have shown immense potential as No. 2 partners.

“They’re kind of a wild card,” he said. “They could beat anybody on any given day. They have great mental toughness and they never get down on themselves.”

The No. 3 doubles court features Sam Packham and Tristin Rosticil, whose chemistry makes them a strong pair.

“They work really well together,” Barnes said. “They’re better as a team than they are apart. They’re very competitive.”

North Marion’s No. 4 doubles positions have not been finalized. Barnes said the spots will be granted to the players who have demonstrated the most improvement by the district tournament, which is slated for the week of May 5-9 at Portland Tennis Center.

Barnes expects to have a much better understanding of his team after this week, which was scheduled to include three-straight road matches against Estacada (April 22), Philomath (April 23) and La Salle Prep (April 24). The team’s home finale is slated for April 29 against Molalla.

“This week will really tell us what kind of team we have,” Barnes said. “It’ll be an excellent test of our skills.”




April 7: NORTH MARION 5, Central 3

April 9: NORTH MARION 8, Madras 0

April 11: North Marion 4, CASCADE 4 (sets)

April 14: NORTH MARION 8, Blanchet Catholic 0

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