Lady Outlaws crowned district tennis champions
Last updated 5/16/2023 at 3:12pm
The Lady Outlaws brought seven players to the 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 4 tennis Tournament in Pendleton on Friday and Saturday, May 12-13, and emerged as the champs. The Outlaws took a first, third, and fourth place in singles, and placed a doubles team in the quarterfinals for a total of 17 points, double the closest rival team.
Coach Bruce Fenn said, “At the beginning of the season we wanted to place at least second in our district. (We were third last year.) After the district realignment with 20 teams, mostly Eastern Oregon, I knew we had a chance to win the district championship, and we accomplished that.”
Juhree Kizziar (No. 1 seed) cruised through her opposition and won her first district championship.
Kizziar started with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Leslee Rivera-Castro of Umatilla in the first round and then beat Mary Esplen of Nyssa 6-1, 6-4, in round two. She faced teammate Katie Ryan in the semis and earned a 6-1,6-2 win.
The championship match was a bit tougher. Kizziar lost the first set 2-6, but then battled back with a 6-0, 6-2, victory over Jaclyn Albert of Weston-McEwen High School. At the start of the match, winds were gusting up to 17 miles per hour, and those conditions changed Kizziar’s strategy. The wind blew the ball long most of the day and made it very difficult to control the ball toss on the serve and hit harder.
Fenn said, “After the first set, Juhree went from hitting harder to keeping the ball in play, which proved to be successful. She was exceptional today in the windy conditions with her serve. She did not give her opponent free points by double faulting, and that in itself is remarkable.”
Katie Ryan posted a third-place finish at the tourney. She started with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (TB), win over the No. 1 seed, Vicky de la Torre of Ione Community Charter School, in the first round.
Fenn said, “After losing the first set, we changed the plan, hitting every ball to Torre’s backhand, creating more errors and not allowing Torre to hit her high forcing ground strokes to Katie’s baseline.”
In her next match she defeated Lilian Holden 7-6 (8) 6-4.
In the first set Ryan was down 3-4 and came back and won six straight games. In the tiebreaker Ryan was down and came back from 4-5 and won 7-6.
Fenn said, “In the second set tiebreaker Katie was behind again 6-4 triple set point and came back again and won four straight points to take the set and match 8-4.”
The match lasted almost three hours in the 80-plus degree weather and gave the Outlaws a chance to take the title.
Ryan lost in two sets to teammate Kizziar in the semis, but bounced back with a win over teammate Brooke Harper for third place. Score was 2-0 (retired).
“Katie has the ability to stay calm under pressure,” said Fenn. “She is a fighter and works with coaches to find winning solutions, and executes the plan agreed on to win. In tennis you are constantly evaluating how things are going and make adjustments as needed.”
Brooke Harper (No. 3 seed) rounded out the Lady Outlaws singles and was also impressive with similar tactics. She beat Judit Gomora of Irrigon Jr./Sr. High School 6-2, 6-2, and then defeated last year’s Ontario state qualifier Laken Herrera 6-4, 6-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
Fenn shared details about Harper’s quarterfinal match against Herrera.
“Brooke was down the whole set and then at 4-5 deuce point she had a 70-80 shot rally that she won and it was no ad, so that was clutch. The tiebreak was at 5-5 and then she won the last two. The other girl started crushing the ball and hit multiple winners in the tiebreaker, but it didn’t faze Brooke. It was so cool!
“Brooke focused on keeping the ball in play to make minimal unforced errors,” added Fenn. “Her patience and high and deep ground strokes to Herrera baseline made it very difficult. When she gets locked into her style, Brooke is very good. Most players will try to move to the net, but then Brooke will lob them or pass them! When they force her, she never panics.”
Harper then fell 5-7 in the first set to Jacqlyn Albert of Weston-McEwen. Fenn told The Nugget she then withdrew due to injury.
The Wyland sisters, Sage and Shae, defeated Doherty/J. Serrano from Ione Community Charter School 6-1, 6-1 in doubles in the first round.
“They never got in trouble,” said Fenn. “They continued to play good positioning on the court and took advantage of easy winners at the net.”
In the quarterfinals they lost to Z. Reeser/M. Sharp from Stansfield Secondary School in a score of 1-6, 1-6.
Kizziar, Ryan, and Harper all advance to the state championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20, at the Oregon State University campus.
Fenn said, “This year I was looking forward to qualify more state qualifiers. We accomplished that by adding Brooke and Katie to Juhree’s run the last two years! Credit goes to all the team members, coaches, volunteers, and the tennis community that encourage young people to play tennis. Our next goal is to place one of the girls into the semifinals at the state championships. We will enjoy the journey and have fun. These girls are really special in so many ways, and we are all proud of them.”