BEAVERTON — The cream of Eugene high school tennis stayed near the top of the bottle on the opening day of action Thursday at the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District facility and the Portland Tennis Center.
South Eugene’s Peter Shen, the fifth-seeded player in the 6A boys singles, won easily. So did Sheldon’s fourth-seeded newcomer, Lauren Kreutzer, who brushed the stars out of her eyes in time to move into the quarterfinals of the 6A girls singles.
All the 5A seeds from Marist and Churchill made it out of upset territory unscathed, too.
That’s what’s supposed to happen on the opening day. The bottles don’t start to shake until Friday.
Shen’s remarkable two-toned athletic career continued with a dominating 6-1, 6-0 victory over game but outmatched Lake Oswego sophomore Gabe Horwitz. The Axe senior, who is headed for Nashville, Tenn., and Vanderbilt University in the fall, was all over the court with his dancer’s feet and his distance runner’s stamina.
Shen could do pretty much whatever he felt like. No, he wasn’t entirely happy with the outcome, but it was hard to argue with the score.
“At the start it was just straightforward tennis,” he said. “Then he started grinding on me, then I started rushing the volleys a little bit. But it all worked out.”
Shen has to be the tennis tournament’s X factor. For the first half of the tennis season, he ran middle distances for South’s track team, too.
“I took it to the Oregon Relays (Apr. 14) before I stopped,” he said. “That’s been a dream of mine for a long time. I was part of the distance medley relay. I got a 4:30 mile.”
If the dual sports life wasn’t enough, Shen also faced the traditional barrage of advanced placement academic finals.
The combination made the transition back to full-time tennis trickier than he thought.
“In track you have longer strides,” he said. “In tennis, you rely more on agility. But beginning about a week before district I started making steady progress in tennis. I feel like I’m ready.”
He’d better be. On Friday, he faces second-seeded Luke Lemaitre of Westview. Lemaitrie, like all the seeded players, took a first-match bye, then clobbered Sheldon senior Garrett Laurie 6-2, 6-0.
Thursday was the first tennis trip to northern Oregon for Kreutzer. She’d never been to state before — at least not in Oregon. She made it to state last year out of Spanish Springs High School in Reno, Nev. — and got crushed by the No. 1 seed for her trouble.
Thursday in Beaverton wasn’t any kind of senior prom waltz, either. She played Grants Pass’ Elizabeth Williams for the fourth time this year and was in command after a 6-1 opening set.
She even got a 4-1 lead in the second set before Williams charged back with two breaks to tie it up at 4-4. Kreutzer then broke back and held to win the set and move on to the quarters, where she will play fourth-seeded freshman Mariam Nechiporuk of Lake Oswego.
“I just let the new place distract me,” she said. “I just wasn’t concentrating well. At the end I was OK.”
The last nine months have been a big adjustment for Kreutzer. She didn’t transfer to Sheldon until late August, when she left her hometown because of her father’s job.
“It was a very difficult time,” she said. “It was very emotional for me. I let it get to my tennis. I didn’t even play.”
It turned out that she needed tennis to cope with her new surroundings. She discovered Eugene Swim and Tennis Center and the reminder that tennis is more than just a game for her — it’s a sanctuary.
“It’s my second home,” she said. “It’s helped me deal with the change.”
In the 5A boys, Churchill’s Allen Bana pounded Parkrose’s Ethan Chang, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the quarters. Marist’s unseeded Jackson Whitaker also reached the quarterfinals.
Churchill sophomore Youha Tanaka reached the 5A girls quarters with an easy victory over Mackenzie Hill of Hermiston.
In the 5A girls doubles, Marist's No. 3 doubles team of Chloe Lee and Nithya Vaikuntam advanced to the quarterfinals as did the team of Ashley Alldridge and McKenna Priske.