Dawson Beckstead
PHS junior Dawson Beckstead hits a return shot during a win Tuesday over his Lebanon opponent. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

In May when the state championships are staged at the Oregon State University tennis complex, junior Dawson Beckstead and senior Dylan Bell hope to be among the singles players working their way through the bracket to cap strong seasons.

“I think both of us have a great shot at qualifying for state this year and being able to make a deep run in both districts and state,” Bell said after a 6-1, 6-1 win over Lebanon’s Elijah Zderad on Tuesday at the PHS courts. “I think that would be a really cool thing if both of us got to state and are able to do that. That’s the goal right now.”

Based on early results and historical success, it appears to be an attainable goal. Beckstead, playing at No. 1, said he’s just trying to play with consistency and work on his strokes.

“This year, I’m trying to come out with a more aggressive mentality but still maintaining topspin depth, consistency … work the corners for a few shots” before finishing for the point, he said following a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Lebanon’s Mark Workman.

The Beckstead and Bell victories were part of Philomath’s 8-0 rout over the visitors. Sophomore Andrew Leonard posted a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 3 singles and senior Mark Grimmer played for the first time this season following his recovery from an injury to post a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 4 singles.

Warriors senior Dylan Bell calls his serve the strongest part of his game. “That’s what saved me today,” he said after a 6-1, 6-1 win. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Two doubles matches were played with senior Noah Aynes and junior Teddy Benbow winning 6-2, 6-1, and sophomore Gradin Fairbanks and senior Braedon Littrell taking a win at 6-3, 6-3. Philomath won the other two doubles matches by forfeit with Lebanon bringing only eight athletes to the competition.

Although a junior, Beckstead has limited high school playing experience thanks to the pandemic.

“It was a setback as far as high school experience goes. I’m still able to train on my own so my training was disrupted,” Beckstead said. “But missing my freshman year and having a shortened season my sophomore year was certainly a lot different than I expected. I’m just grateful that I get to play this year and everything’s normal with no masks.”

Beckstead and Bell test one another in practice.

“Dawson and I have been able to go back and forth at practice which has been really good since both of us are playing singles this year … seeing us adjust to each other’s games and getting better,” Bell said. “We complement each other well, we push each other.”

Bell said it’s been a great start to the season, an encouraging remark for the senior as he tackles the court as a singles player for the first time since he was a freshman. Still, he admitted that he likes playing doubles better.

Noah Aynes, left, and Teddy Benbow posted a straight-set victory at No. 1 doubles. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

“That was a lot more fun because you have a teammate that you can kind of work back and forth off of but it’s been really good for me to play singles this year since I have Dawson there to keep pushing me and keep getting me better.”

Philomath goes to 2-0 with the win — both over Class 5A opponents — and will hit the road for Eugene on Friday for a match against Marist Catholic. League play begins next week.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.