The Philomath boys tennis team’s top two singles players and top doubles team will continue their seasons this week with state-qualifying performances Wednesday through Friday at the 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2 tournament at Estacada High School and Salem Tennis and Swim Club.
The team race came down to the final matches with Cascade edging the Warriors for the district title, 33-32. State qualifiers included junior Dawson Beckstead and senior Dylan Bell in singles and junior Teddy Benbow and senior Noah Aynes in doubles.
“Cascade beat us pretty handily during the regular season,” PHS boys tennis coach Gary Quandt said. “I was proud of my guys, they played so well. We had so many good matches where everything fell in our place really, except for one match.”
Quandt was referring to a Friday morning semifinal in doubles when Benbow and Aynes lost a tough one on a tiebreaker to Joshua Lam and Caden Cox of Molalla, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6.
Said Quandt, “That was very tight and they had their chances.”
Benbow and Aynes, seeded second in the tournament, quickly regrouped to dominate Woodburn’s Saul Rubio and Joaquim Lopez, 6-0, 6-0, in the third-place match. The PHS pair handily defeated opponents from Estacada (6-3, 6-1) and Cascade (6-1, 6-0) in the first two rounds and were pushed a bit in a quarterfinal victory over Sennett Grassl and Dakota Burke of Molalla, 7-5, 6-3, heading into the semis.
Beckstead, seeded No. 2 for the tournament, rolled through three straight opponents by 6-0, 6-0 scores to build momentum for a semifinals showdown against third-seeded Gage Hurst of North Marion. Beckstead advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win.
The singles champion, Cascade’s Zach Moore, defeated three Philomath players on his way to the title — sophomore Sawyer Ainsworth in the quarterfinals (6-0, 6-0), Bell in the semifinals (6-0, 6-0) and Beckstead in the finals (6-0, 6-1).
“But I will say this — that’s the first time I’ve ever had four singles players in the four quarterfinals,” Quandt said — sophomore Andrew Leonard being the other singles player advancing that far. “‘I’ve had it before in doubles, but just not in singles, so I was super proud of that.”
Bell entered the tournament unseeded but defeated both the No. 4 seed and the No. 3 seed on his way to a third-place showing. Bell’s first win was over fourth-seeded Santiago Herrera Morales of Estacada, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, followed by wins of 6-0, 6-0 and 6-3, 6-2 over opponents from Molalla and Madras, respectively.
In the semifinals, Bell had to face Cascade’s Moore, who seems to be playing on a different level that the rest of 4A. In the third-place match, Bell worked for a 7-6, 6-4 win over North Marion’s Hurst.
The top four singles players and doubles teams qualify for state.
Both Leonard and Ainsworth put in respectable performances at the tournament to contribute valuable points toward the team score. Leonard had wins of 7-5, 6-1 over a Woodburn opponent and 6-4, 6-0 over a Molalla player to reach the semis where he dropped a 6-2, 6-2 match to Hurst.
Ainsworth posted victories of 6-4, 6-3 over a Woodburn player and 6-4, 6-3 over a North Marion player in his first two matches before the loss in the semis to Moore.
Quandt mentioned both Ainsworth and the doubles team of sophomore Owen Thomas and freshman Jackson Holroyd as the most pleasant surprises for the Warriors. Ainsworth won his first two matches in the championship bracket while Thomas and Holroyd started out with a first-round win of 6-0, 6-0 over a Woodburn pair.
“I give them kids kudos for that because that was unexpected,” Quandt said.
The doubles team of sophomore Gradin Fairbanks and senior Braedon Littrell lost in the first round but made some noise in the consolation bracket by reaching the semifinals. Sophomore Osvaldo Garcia-Bazan and freshman Ethan Aynes were the other doubles team and was eliminated in the first round of consolations.
“I have a lot of players who are in their first year playing,” Quandt said. “So, I mean, they did the best they could and they improved so much from the beginning of the season.”
Scores from the consolation bracket were not available.
The state tournament runs Friday and Saturday at Oregon State University.