Josh Cordell says he noticed the coaching potential in Paxton Deuel when he coached Deuel on the Summit High boys tennis team from 2009 to 2012.
“He grew so much in four years,” Cordell recalls. “By the time he was a senior, you knew he was capable of being a great coach and you could really see that in him.”
Deuel, a three-time Class 5A state champion at Summit, went on to play college tennis at the University of Portland for one season before transferring to Trinity University in San Antonio. At NCAA Division III Trinity, he was an All-American and two-time Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s tennis player of the year.
When Deuel returned to Bend after earning his masters in teaching at UP, Cordell — who was stepping down after 17 years and eight team state championships as Summit coach — knew he had his likely successor.
Deuel, 24, takes over this season as the new Summit boys tennis coach, hoping to build on the success of Cordell and lead the Storm against tougher Class 6A competition.
“It’s just perfect timing,” says Cordell, 40, who is now a full-time life coach for Central Oregon athletes in all sports. “He’s ready to take it on and he’s going to do such a good job. It’s like the dream scenario, really. He was such a great player, and he’s such a driven guy. He’ll bring out the best in all those kids.”
Deuel won a doubles state championship as a freshman at Summit and singles state titles in his junior and senior years. The Storm won the state team title in each of those three years as well.
Back home in Bend after completing his degree, Deuel is juggling multiple jobs while living with his parents. He hopes to eventually land a social studies teaching job in Central Oregon, but for now he is the Summit boys coach, a coach at Black Diamond Tennis Academy in Sunriver, and a strength and conditioning coach at a Bend gym. Oh, and he is also stringing tennis rackets.
“It’s nice to be back around Summit,” Deuel says. “(Cordell) has been really great, and supportive and positive in this transition. He’ll pick up the phone if I call him. He’s letting me take over the program and continue to build on what he’s developed over the last (17 years).”
One regret Deuel says he has from his high school experience was not focusing more on the team aspect of tennis. Sometimes, he recalls, he would miss matches or practices with the Summit squad to attend other, private tournaments. As a coach now, he says he is focused on striking the right balance between the team and individuals.
“Especially after going to college, and realizing when you look back it’s the team memories that stand out,” Deuel says. “The kind of individual stuff and the times you missed practice, you don’t remember that. Now being a coach, and over the last couple years working with kids on the court, it’s really the learning how to work together as a team and … working toward that common goal. That’s the fun part and the challenging part.”
Summit won its fifth consecutive Class 5A state team title last season. It was also the Storm’s seventh championship in the past eight years and eighth in the past 10 years — all under Cordell, who coached the Summit boys since the school opened in 2001.
This season, the Storm return juniors Ryan Abbott and David Feldman, who together won the doubles state title last season. Also returning are seniors Dylan Warren and Joshua Marine, who finished second in state doubles in 2018.
Deuel says the new challenge this season will be playing in the Class 6A Mountain Valley Conference against Salem-area schools, and then possibly against 6A powerhouses such as Jesuit in the state tournament.
“We have an incredibly strong foundation, and we have an incredibly strong team,” Deuel says. “We are definitely state contenders, but we’re going to need some improvement during the season. We’ll have to step up one more notch, because we’re competing against the big dogs now.”
Many of Summit’s players are members at The Athletic Club of Bend and have been playing on indoor courts through the winter, according to Deuel, who was using a snow blower on the Storm’s outdoor courts last week.
Summit’s program includes 47 players this year. Twelve will play on varsity, and the rest will be split between JV1 and JV2 teams.
Another challenge, Deuel says, is trying to meet the needs of different players who have distinctly different goals for the season.
“It’s how to bring everyone together to move forward and progress as a team, but also making sure that each individual player kind of gets what they want to get out of the season as well,” says Deuel, noting that he is grateful for the aid of longtime Summit assistant coach Steve Mickel. “On our team, some want to win state, and others want to learn how to hit a backhand volley.”
Deuel is an avid outdoorsman, and he admits he missed the Central Oregon outdoors lifestyle during his time in Texas and Portland. Aside from tennis, he enjoys skiing, mountain biking, hiking, camping and fly-fishing.
“It’s really a special place,” he says of Central Oregon. “To have the opportunity to grow up here, and then have the opportunity to move back here and maybe get a job and have a career in Bend, is really, really awesome.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,