For years, Westview girls tennis has lived in the giant shadow of 6A powerhouse Jesuit.
The Wildcats have had strong teams, but could not match up in the Metro League against the Crusaders, who have won 15 state championships since 1994.
And when Westview had its best team ever in 2019, the Wildcats finished a distant second in the 6A tournament behind another Metro League rival, Sunset.
This season, though, holds great promise for Westview. Coming off a 2021 season in which they defeated Jesuit in both league matches – their first-ever wins over the Crusaders – the Wildcats believe they have a team that can contend for their first state championship.
“In any sport I've ever coached, I've never had a team quite like this one,” said Tom Lefor, Westview's coach for the last 15 seasons. “I think we're right there in the mix with the best of the teams.”
The Wildcats have four outstanding singles players, led by junior Neena Feldman, rated as a five-star college prospect by Tennis Recruiting Network.
For her class, Feldman is ranked No. 1 in Oregon, No. 3 in the Northwest and No. 69 in the nation. She went unbeaten and won the Metro district title last season, but without a state tournament, didn't get a chance to pursue Westview's first singles title.
“I think the sky's the limit for her,” Lefor said. “She's just very, very strong. She's one of the more powerful players not only that I've coached, but I've seen play the game. She's right up there with some of the best I've seen out of Jesuit. Just a very, very solid game, and she doesn't beat herself.”
Seniors Riho Iijima and Karolina Dobiecka – who have committed to play in college at Washington and Lee University and Amherst College, respectively – and junior Amberly Au give the Wildcats unprecedented depth in singles. In the Metro district tournament last year, Feldman defeated Iijima in straight sets in the final and Dobiecka took third place.
Dobiecka was the 6A singles runner-up as a freshman in 2019. Lefor has toyed with the idea of combining Dobiecka and Au in doubles for district and state, however, to maximize points.
“I don't want to just stack singles and have them knock each other out,” he said.
The Wildcats are loaded with committed, year-round players who have high aspirations in the sport. They train year-round and are dedicated to the fitness program at Westview.
“My 1-2-3-4, it's my dream team,” Lefor said. “These are some strong athletes. I've taken my lumps over the years, but I hope we'll at least be there in contention for things, if we can stay healthy.
“We're very deep. We'll know by the end of May just how good we are, but I think we're going to be pretty darn good.”
Westview's singles players will have plenty of competition this season.
Among the state contenders is Clackamas sophomore Lauren Han, rated as a five-star prospect and the No. 1 sophomore in the Northwest by Tennis Recruiting Network. She won the Mt. Hood Conference district title as a freshman.
The Metro is deep with singles contenders. Jesuit has Carissa Gerung, the No. 2 sophomore in Oregon and No. 6 in the Northwest, and junior Mishi Batinkova. Mountainside has senior Geo Kim and sophomore Arushi Arora.
Jesuit and Mountainside should push Westview for the team title in the Metro. The Crusaders have long dominated the league, but Westview was able to beat them twice on tiebreakers (one on sets, the other on games) in dual matches last year.
“For us, it was a great milestone,” Lefor said. “We got to enjoy it. It doesn't happen very often. After these girls graduate, I think we'll be back down to somewhat of normality.”