Because many of the most successful names are the same, so is the rhetoric: The end of the Roseburg High tennis teams’ competitive streaks are nowhere in sight.
There’s a propitious wrinkle, though, for the Indian boys and girls. The same things that have them set for the future also have them giddy about the present.
For the boys, that wrinkle is the inclusion of freshman Stefan Ball in their lineup. Ball, the youngest son of head coach Eric Ball, is a year-round, nationally-ranked player — right around 60th for 14-year-olds — who will step in as Roseburg’s No. 1 singles player.
“There are about four freshmen in the state who are going to be really tough in singles, and I’d say he’s one of them,” Eric Ball said. “There’s still a couple guys older guys that are way ahead of everybody. But Stefan can be in the mix.”
He’ll join a cast of proven Indians in that regard, including his older brother. Junior CJ Ball and senior Sam Stadter form Roseburg’s No. 1 doubles team, and were the No. 2 seed at the Class 6A state tournament last year after ditching singles play mid-season and sweeping through the Southwest Conference without dropping a set. Both are also year-round tournament players, and Stadter has already committed to play at Pacific Lutheran University.
Senior Nick Foley and junior Nate Hansen also advanced to the state tournament as a doubles team last season and have remained a team to start this year. However, Eric Ball says that, beyond his No. 1 teams, no one else is “set in stone by any means” in terms of competing in singles or doubles play.
For now, third-year letter-winner Alec Johnson, a junior is serving as the Indians’ No. 2 singles player. Sophomore Zach Carter — who won the consolation title at the SWC Championships last season — is No. 3, and junior Dalton Roman is No. 4 after competing as a freshman and taking last year off.
Three other teams have filled the Roseburg doubles lineup thus far: senior Matt Gade and junior Tanner Baumgartner, sophomores Jesse Brickner and Cole Eibel, and freshmen Hunter Paschke and Nicholas Norlin-Pritchard.
“This is, I’d say, our strongest team in the six years since I’ve been coaching,” Ball said. “We have 14 solid guys, and you can only take 12 to district and 12 to some of the tournaments. I can already see it’s going to be tough to leave two guys off.”
The Indians were third in a tightly-contested team race at the SWC tournament last year behind South Eugene and South Medford.
The Roseburg girls were also third and have reason to believe they won’t be dropping off any time soon, either.
That’s because, along with a strong chorus of returnees, the Indians boast nine freshmen in the program, “which is unheard of for us,” head coach Shari Notenboom said.
Through three contests this season — against admittedly weaker competition than they’ll see in the SWC — the Indians have lost just a single match.
Coming off a strong sophomore campaign, Fiona Johnson is back to lead the way again as Roseburg’s No. 1 singles player. Johnson, a three-sport athlete, went 5-1 as a singles player last season before joining then-senior Radhe Allen to make up a No. 1 doubles team. Together, Johnson and Allen went 5-0, swept through the SWC tournament and went 1-1 at state.
The appearance at the 6A championships was Johnson’s second after going as a freshman in 2011. This year, according to Notenboom, she’ll remain on the singles side.
“Fiona’s such a tremendous athlete; she comes right off of basketball and doesn’t miss a beat,” Notenboom said. “She’s always improving and she’s going to have a good shot at state again if it’s anything like last year.”
Sophomore Claire Hittle, the No. 2 singles player, came just a few points away from a trip to state of her own last season, compiling a record of 10-3. Senior captain Varneet Brar, who sat out last season for medical reasons, and sophomore Andrea Chiou, a doubles convert, make up the rest of the singles lineup.
Atop the doubles lineup are two teams of all-senior returnees: Lauren Baque and Hannah Cooperrider are No. 1, and Jordan Merrifield and Cheyanne Woodrow No. 2. Making up the other two teams are four sophomores: Sarah Royce and Morgan Novak, and Courtney Ullom and Monica Hall.
The Roseburg boys won their first SWC conference meeting against Thurston, 8-0, and their second against North Medford was postponed due to weather on Tuesday. Their next date is at Sheldon on April 4, and they have the Jesuit/Metro Tournament — which will serve as the unofficial state team championships — to look forward to on April 19-20.
The girls (3-0) resume play Thursday at Thurston before returning home April 4 against Sheldon.
• You can reach sports reporter Josh McDermott at 541-957-4219 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org