Bend girls tennis coach Kevin Collier has plenty of reasons to be “carefully optimistic” about his team’s prospects this season. Bend has a deep roster, plenty of talented newcomers, and veterans with state tournament experience, including Sierra Winch, who won the district singles championship as a freshman in 2013.

Yet while the Lava Bears are hungry for a district title, Collier also recognizes a significant hurdle standing between Bend and the Class 5A Special District 1 crown: Summit has come out ahead at districts in each of the past three years and claimed a share of the title four years ago. And the Storm may not be done just yet.

“They’re the team to beat until someone beats them,” Collier says.

Summit girls coach Ryan Cruz says he and his players are aware of the target on their backs.

“I think any team’s goal is to win districts and see how many athletes can qualify for states,” Cruz says. “Our hope is to take it match by match, and at the end of the day we hope the results speak for themselves.”

Cruz says there has been a slight change in team composition this spring, as the squad includes more multisport athletes and fewer year-round tennis players. The Storm will rely heavily on sophomores Siena Ginsburg and Autumn Layden, who have moved up to the No. 1 and 2 singles positions.

“They’ve worked quite a bit in the offseason,” Cruz says. “They knew they’d be filling a larger role for our team.”

While the Storm girls aim to maintain their status as the top team in the district, any competitors hoping for a drop-off by the Summit boys, who have claimed three state titles in the past four years, will likely be disappointed.

“Three years ago was the best team that we had ever had, and we set a record for points at the state tournament and were really deep,” Summit boys coach Josh Cordell recalls. “We think this team is just as deep as that team. We’re really excited. We think this is as good a team as we’ve ever had.”

Four returning Summit players qualified for the state finals last spring, including Chandler Oliveira, who finished second in singles at the 5A state tournament, and Carter Quigley, who clinched the Storm’s share of the state title when he won the third-place singles match as a freshman.

“We’ve got Chandler Oliveira, who has been a state semifinalist every year. He’s one of the best players in the Northwest,” Cordell says. “Then we have Carter Quigley, who’s going to end up being one of the best, if not the best, players who’s ever come out of Bend. He’s just that good. And just an awesome kid, and he’s going to be right there contending for a state championship with Chandler.”

Doubles partners Thomas Wimberly and Hudson Mickel, who made it to the doubles quarterfinals at the 2014 state tournament, have also returned for the Storm, although Garen Gasporovic, who made it to the doubles final with the now-graduated Liam Hall, has moved to Texas and will not compete for Summit this spring.

Cordell also claims that two of the team’s new players, freshman Logan Hausler and Daniel Pino, a transfer student, are among the best 5A players in the state.

“(Hausler) is one of the people who’s been hitting with the best players in town since he was a little kid, and we’re really excited to have him in high school. He’s on that elite level with Chandler and Carter,” Cordell says. “And then we have Daniel Pino, who moved here from the San Antonio area. He is really, really good. He’s right up there with our best players.”

Hausler is one of the young tennis players who has grown up around the Summit program.

“We’ve been hitting with him since he was 7 years old,” Cordell says. “You really have to look down the road and have little kids wearing your T-shirt who are in second grade and are saying, ‘I want to be a Summit tennis player.’ You always see that in basketball and you see that in football, and so I sort of made it our mission that we were going to have that.”

With 43 players on the roster and just 12 varsity spots to fill, Cordell says practices are highly competitive, but adds that even the players at the back of the pack improve quickly.

“On a lot of teams I’ve seen when you have the really high, elite-level kids, they do their own thing separate from the rest of the group, but we’ve had all the kids practicing together,” Cordell syas. “We had one of our best kids, one of the best players in the state, playing doubles with a kid who’s No. 18 for a drill, and they were playing really well.

“It’s one of those things where I try to teach the kids, if you’re willing to watch these top kids and get the opportunity to hit with them, you have the incredible opportunity to get better.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com

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