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La Grande’s Lauren Mills (left) and Anna Grigsby qualified for the state tennis tournament as a doubles team. The pair will take on Erin Flagg and Haley Yohn of La Salle Prep in a ponytail match Thursday in Eugene. (Courtesy photo)
EUGENE — The tennis season has come down to a ponytail.
That is what La Grande’s top doubles team of Lauren Mills and Anna Grigsby has facing them Thursday afternoon at the University of Oregon.
It will be the tennis equivalant of a do-or-die match, according to coach Mike Schireman. “It is just one match, which I don’t agree with. If you go that far, you should at least get two. But, if you lose, you’re done.”
In order to play in the tournament, the La Grande duo must defeat Erin Flagg and Haley Yohn of La Salle Prep.
The victors in the ponytail match move on to the first round of the state tennis tournament against North Bend’s Hannah Schandelmeier-Lynch and Taylor Cuzzart, the others go home.
The biggest difficulty in the district tournament came in the semifinal match Mills and Grigsby played. “It took about three and a half hours,” Grigsby said.
The conditions at the district championships were severe, Schireman said. “They played three sets and then another two more on top of that. It was probably some of the most grueling tennis I have ever seen at a high school simply because it was so hot. (Mills and Grigsby) toughed it out.”
Mills and Grigsby won the first round 6-0, 6-0 over an Ontario team. Then they handed Vale’s Lastiri-Froerer duo a 7-5, 6-2 loss to move into the semis against Ridgeview’s Wright and Wellette.
The La Grande pair lost the first set, and came back for a 7-5 win to tie the match. The Ridgeview duo took the third set in a tiebreaker to move into the finals.
“One of the signs at a local bank said it was over 90 degrees,” Mills said.
“The first game was at least three hours long.
It also added to the team’s experience level. “We have played in almost every weather there is. We have played in wind. We have played in rain,” Mills said.
Mills and Grigsby earned the play-in “ponytail” spot by finishing third in the district, beating a Ridgeview duo by a 6-3, 7-6 (5) score.
It was the second tie-breaker match the La Gande duo had in Vale. The first one put the top Ridgeview doubles team into the title match with Vale’s top duo. Vale went on to claim an easy straight set win for the title.
Mills said she thinks the pair is ready for the state tournament. “I still need to work on my serve,” the senior said.
The top doubles team from Vale not only won the district’s doubles crown but is the third seed at this week’s state tournament.
According to Schireman, the players were hampered at the districts by the fact they hadn’t faced rivals from Ridgeview and Crook County — two of the district’s toughest teams — at all this season.
“Ridgeview had one of the strongest girls teams I have ever seen,” Schireman said. “They won two, three and four in singles and two and four in doubles. They pretty much dominated the tournament. That whole Ridgeview team is really athletic.”
Schireman said the strong community involvement in tennis in the Bend area
“They have had good competition. They have been able to play a lot.”
La Grande’s top singles player found that out in the district tournament, Schireman said. “That is what Kata (Sebastian-Azaola) ran into. That girl was extremely fit, was a really tough
It was a Ridgeview duo that handed Wyatt Schlaht and Caleb Owen a 6-3, 6-2 defeat in the first round at districts.
But La Grande’s doubles team of Josh Ebel and Derek Yohannen won their first round match in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) over Vale’s team of Philpott and Shatravka before falling to a Ridgeview tandem in the quarterfinals (6-4, 6-2).
The fast-growing school should have been in 5A this year, the coach said.
Now, the top doubles team from La Grande has a chance to make a run in the state tournament with their 5 p.m. match at the University of Oregon tennis courts.
And both players know they won’t get a second chance to get into the tournament.
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