The Lions knock off powers Grant and Lakeridge in successive matches to stay unbeaten in league this year

by: VERN UYETAKE - Russell Risenhoover takes over at No. 1 singles for the Lions this year.The West Linn boys tennis team looked to relish its role as the spoiler and potential darkhorse in the Three Rivers League this year.

But, with the Lions' 5-3 wins over Lakeridge and Grant this year, it's going to be tough for West Linn to stay under the radar.

West Linn expected to experience some early growing pains with its relative lack of experience but the team now has to be considered a strong contender for a league title.

West Linn has strong returners at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles this season.

Russell Risenhoover will take over as the team's ace at No. 1 singles this spring. Risenhoover played at No. 2 behind his brother last season before pairing up with him as a doubles team at districts.

He figures to be one of the stronger players in the league this year and should vie for a berth at state.

In doubles, the team of Mitch Tingey and Craig Wright anchors a strong doubles line-up from top to bottom and the pairing should be among the league's best this season.

Behind the team's No. 1s, West Linn is an inexperienced but talented assortment of younger players.

The Lions are bolstered by a pair of brothers who attend Westside Chrisitian High School but, as West Linn residents, will play for West Linn this year as the Eagles lack a boys tennis team.

“They fit in nicely and are well-liked by the team,” Lewis said.

West Linn has talent and versatility this year and the team has gelled quickly early in the season, benefiting from the court time it has received due to the string of good weather.

The Lions are quick and work hard and have already shown vast improvement this year.

“We're a more athletic group than we've been in recent years,” Lewis said.

In early practices, the Lions have been striving to become more consistent and not beat themselves in matches.

“They're playing against physics and making mistakes against the game. We need to do what the ball allows and get the ball in play,” Lewis said.

Against Grant, West Linn's superior depth won the match as the Lions won at No. 3 and 4 singles and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 doubles.

Andrew To and Mark Paraschuck each ground out impressive straight sets wins at singles.

In doubles, Neil Olson and Cameron Minson won a tough three-setter at No. 2 as did Mitch Coronel and Yem Alharithi, after dropping the opening set in a tiebreaker.

Another three-setter was played at No. 4 doubles with the team of Dakoda Archer and Conner Houlette winning the third set 7-5 to clinch the match.

It was a similar story against Lakeridge earlier this week. The Pacers won at 1, 2 and 3 singles but the Lions swept in doubles.

Parashuck won the lone singles match for the Lions.

In doubles, the match of the day occurred at No. 2 where Olson and Minson ground out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 thriller.

Tingey and Wright won convincingly at No. 1 doubles 6-3, 6-0 while Alharithi and Coronel and Houlette each won in straight sets.

Despite some early success, West Linn figures to only improve as the season progresses, something that has been a hallmark for the team in recent years.

“It's a very enthusiastic group and we'll find out early on how high the mountain is to climb,” Lewis said.

The Lions should see some tough challenges this season from Grant along with Lakeridge and Lake Oswego and will look to battle for a league title while prepping players for state.

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