CORVALLIS — Austin Mendoza and Ozzy Ramirez played in singles matches early in the season to knock some rust off.
They joined forces as a doubles team midway through the season and didn’t have many expectations until forcing what would be the Mid-Willamette Conference’s top-seeded team from Silverton to a third set two weeks ago.
The longtime friends and soccer teammates gave South Albany boys tennis just its second state entry in the last 18 years after a strong showing at this week’s district tournament at Timberhill Tennis Club.
“I just feel good,” said Mendoza, who has been playing tennis for three seasons, Ramirez for two. “All these guys have probably had years and years of playing. And we come in with a couple years of practice and almost make the finals.”
Added Ramirez: “It’s a big accomplishment since we don’t have that much experience.”
They got their state berth by winning a Thursday quarterfinal. They lost both their matches Friday, but that didn’t seem to take the shine off making school history.
“They’re good athletes, they’re really good with pressure and they can chase down balls that most people can’t get to,” Rebels coach Andy Winn said. “They play a frustrating style to other players and they just wear them down … and they’re awesome young men.”
Ramirez joined the tennis program after some buddies who were on the team told him he should try it.
“Being out with my friends, having fun, trying something new, got me out for it. It turned out that I loved it,” he said.
Mendoza and Ramirez provided South with its best result of the tournament. It also helped the Rebels take third place overall after finishing last the previous two seasons.
Lebanon was fifth and South Albany sixth in the girls team standings.
The 5A state tournament begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at Portland Tennis Center and Babette Horenstein Tennis Center in Beaverton.