Junior Teddy Benbow, left, and senior Noah Aynes have combined their talents in tennis at No. 1 doubles for the Warriors. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Heading into Philomath High’s tennis season this spring, senior Noah Aynes and junior Teddy Benbow had seen limited time playing doubles. Aynes last played a full season three years ago as a freshman singles player. And Benbow’s only season on the court also centered around singles matches.

But head coach Gary Quandt threw the two together at No. 1 doubles and so far this season, they’ve delivered with victories over every opponent except a tough pair from Marist Catholic.

“Probably the biggest surprise is No. 1 doubles because they’re just a couple of good athletes and they’ve done better than I thought,” Quandt said about how the season has progressed so far.

Aynes and Benbow took care of business against Monday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over a Blanchet Catholic pair in Philomath’s 8-0 team victory. The Warriors are now 7-1 in duals this season.

Although a senior, Aynes has seen challenges to get on the court. After that freshman campaign, he saw his sophomore season slip away with COVID canceling everything. Then as a junior, he missed the season with an injury.

Benbow planned to play as a freshman but that was the COVID season. Last year as a sophomore, he played mostly singles and was in the team’s No. 4 spot at districts.

Noah Aynes hits the ball during Monday’s win over Blanchet Catholic. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Aynes and Benbow both said they prefer playing doubles over singles.

“I like doubles a lot more,” Benbow said. “In singles, it’s kinda lonely but in doubles, you have someone to get excited with, I guess, when it’s going well.”

On the tennis court, Aynes and Benbow appear to have similar skills — and that includes an exceptional level of athleticism. They were teammates on the state championship soccer team last fall and welcome tough competition. Throw in a positive mindset and a never-quit attitude and one could expect the pair to be a team to deal with in the postseason.

“I think we do better when we can just rally as best we can and then find a shot that we can just put away to finish the point,” Aynes said.

If there is one part of their game that sets them a bit apart, it’s probably with the serve. Aynes said Benbow is stronger with that part of the game.

“We’re both athletic and fast and we’re both pretty big so we can play well at the net,” Benbow said. “The biggest thing we’ve been working on is just repetition and groundstrokes from the back. Other than that, we’re fine most of the time up front.”

Teddy Benbow returns a shot during Monday’s home match. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Aynes and Benbow have lost just once together this season in a match against Marist Catholic at the Oregon Episcopal School Tournament. Marist defeated Philomath on another occasion at No. 1 doubles this season with Benbow and Mark Grimmer playing together (Aynes was not available to play that day).

“When you have weeks without matches and practices, it kind of just fluctuates a lot,” Aynes said, a reference to the rainouts that have been occurring this spring. “It’s just tough because one week we’ll play a really good team” and in other weeks, the opponents are not as strong.

Benbow sees signs that they’re improving although again, it can be difficult to gauge with a good number of their matches against inferior opponents.

“With our schedule, the hardest teams we play come near the end … Stayton and Cascade are our two last games and they should be the hardest other than Marist,” Benbow said. “It seems like we often just get in slumps during the matches but when we’re playing good, we play really well … hopefully we’ll be ready.”

Aynes and Benbow will apparently get another shot at Marist on Saturday at a tournament in Corvallis.

Sophomore Andrew Leonard has been piling up wins at No. 3 singles this season. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Elsewhere in Philomath’s Monday blowout over Woodburn, Grimmer and Gradin Fairbanks won at No. 2 doubles, 6-4, 6-1. Braedon Littrell and Owen Thomas were 7-6, 6-1 winners at No. 3 doubles. And Osvaldo Garcia-Bazan and Jackson Holroyd won at No. 4 doubles, 6-1, 6-1.

In singles, Philomath didn’t give up a single game with Dawson Beckstead at No. 1, Dylan Bell and No. 2 and Andrew Leonard at No. 3 all winning by 6-0, 6-0 scores. Philomath was awarded a forfeit win at No. 4.

The Warriors head to Woodburn on Tuesday and will then play home matches against North Marion on Wednesday and Stayton on Thursday before heading to the Corvallis tournament this weekend.

Quandt said he just hopes there will be fewer rainouts down the stretch.

“It’s frustrating when your guys are playing great — doubles, singles, everybody — and then we try to come back and it’s raining,” Quandt said. “I mean, we lose all momentum. … It’s been a really frustrating season from that standpoint.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.