San Diego-bound Lincoln senior Will Semler is the top seed in the 6A boys tennis tournament this week. (Photo by Jon Olson)
San Diego-bound Lincoln senior Will Semler is the top seed in the 6A boys tennis tournament this week. (Photo by Jon Olson)

Lincoln's Will Semler thought he was doing just fine in his tennis career, winning back-to-back 6A singles titles and earning a college scholarship to the University of San Diego.

But his future college coach, Ryan Keckley, could see that Semler's game needed an overhaul.

“He's like, 'You can keep doing this, but your ceiling is going to be here,'” Semler said, '”And if you do it this other way, you might not have a ceiling. The sky's the limit.'”

Keckley prepared a lengthy document for Semler, urging him to work on everything from rebuilding his forehand to court movement, shot selection and patterns. It wasn't easy breaking old, comfortable habits – at first, he seemed to be regressing – but as Semler prepares to go for a three-peat this week in the 6A tournament, he is starting to reap the dividends.

“I've seen a lot of improvement in the last three weeks,” Semler said. “It's definitely the most gratifying experience that I've had with tennis, just because of all the work I put in and not seeing any improvement at all.

“I was literally seeing the level dropping almost week by week, to now, where I'm kind of getting to that track where I'm just stacking days, and I feel like I'm improving each week.”

Semler, a senior, brings the top seed into the state tournament Thursday through Saturday at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center. He expects to be challenged by a field that includes Southridge senior Vitomir Petcov (No. 2 seed), Mountainside sophomore Arnav Arora (No. 3 seed) and Jesuit senior Reif Larsen (No. 4 seed).

He believes his brother, fast-rising Lincoln sophomore Tiger Semler (No. 5 seed), also is in the mix of contenders.

“There are a couple of guys who are playing really good ball,” Will Semler said. “I originally didn't think that the level would be nearly as high, after I played it last year. But I've seen the level now, and it's going to be a dogfight to win it. Whoever wins it, it's not going to be easy.”

The other three semifinalists from last year graduated, leaving the door open for new blood.

In the 2023 state tournament, Arora defeated Petcov in split sets in the second round before falling in the quarterfinals. But Petcov has made a turnaround this season, bouncing back from a straight-set loss to Arora to beat him in split sets, then 6-1, 6-3 in the Metro League district final.

“Vitomir's first time against Arnav this season, quite frankly I felt like Arnav kind of thumped him,” Southridge coach Mike Nakajima said. “We watched the match and I said, 'For you to have a chance against Arnav, you have to change your game.'

“What really resonated with him is I told him, 'You've got to go onto the court believing that you're the better player, or you have no chance.' Vitomir has come a long ways, for sure.”

Will Semler defeated Petcov in straight sets twice since last year's tournament, but hasn't played him in months. He can vouch for Petcov's improvement, though, since the two recently began practicing together.

Semler also is impressed with how his brother, Tiger, has elevated his game.

In last year's state tournament, Tiger lost 6-4, 7-5 in the second round to Beaverton's Tannor Binder, a senior who finished as runner-up. Since state last year, Tiger defeated Petcov in a third-set tiebreaker in a junior tournament. Tiger made the final of the Oregon High School Team Tennis Championships in April but lost to Jesuit's Larsen 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Will Semler, who stands 6-foot, said the 6-4 Tiger has “the perfect build for tennis” and that he “lives and breathes” the game.

“He seems to be the most motivated person I've been around,” Will Semler said. “His serve is giant. He's really starting to pop it. He has more potential than me. I try to set the standard for him, and I feel like I did a good job because it's almost like he sets the standard for me sometimes.”

The Semlers were set to meet in the Portland Interscholastic League district final but Tiger withdrew from the match due to illness and minor injuries. They played for the district title last year, with Will prevailing 6-3, 6-2.

“This year I assume it would be even closer,” Will said. “He thinks he would beat me.”

The brothers aren't averse to squaring off in a high-stakes match.

“There's a lot of friends and family that are hoping for a Semler-Semler final,” Will said. “I think we will have no problem handling it. Our parents might have a bigger issue. I don't know if my dad would even go to the match. He coaches both of us. He'd have a heart attack watching that, probably.”

Will said the state tournament is “a huge week for me” considering all the work he has done in rebuilding his game. He has had only six high school matches this season, playing about 10 more in junior tournaments the last two months.

“I've been looking forward to this forever,” Will said. “All the kids, we all talk about it. Basically the day after state last year until now, we bring it up all the time. We're talking trash every time we see each other. We all think we're the one that's going to win.”

A look at the state tournaments this week:



Tualatin Hills Tennis Center, Thursday-Saturday

Top singles seeds: 1. Will Semler, Lincoln, sr.; 2. Vitomir Petcov, Southridge, sr.; 3. Arnav Arora, Mountainside, soph.; 4. Reif Larsen, Jesuit, sr.

Top doubles seeds: 1. Grant Hawkins, sr./Zach Steinberg, jr., West Linn; 2. Keyan Fernando, sr./Rhyson Chiang, jr., West Linn; 3. Aaron Yan, sr./Tristan Hernandez, soph., Jesuit; 4. Kushal Rao, sr./Kyle Zhou, sr., Sunset

2023 team scores: West Linn 23, Sunset 17, Lincoln 16, Jesuit 14

Notes: Semler is the favorite to win a third title, but the field is filled with obstacles. The only other quarterfinalists back from last year are Larsen and Arora, who beat Petcov in the second round. Petcov has taken two of three matches from Arora this season, including 6-1, 6-3 in the Metro League district final. Larsen won the No. 1 singles title at the Oregon High School Team Tennis Championships in April, defeating Lincoln sophomore Tiger Semler 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the final. In doubles last year, Chiang was runner-up with Cameron Paulsen. The team of Rao/Zhou made the semifinals.


West Hills Racquet and Fitness Club (Friday), Tualatin Hills Tennis Center (Saturday)

Top singles seeds: 1. Richard Wang, Crescent Valley, jr.; 2. Aiden Cruz, Caldera, jr.; 3. Kaiden Harris, La Salle Prep, fr.; 4. Max Himstreet, Summit, sr.

Top doubles seeds: 1. Aidan McBride, sr./Ryder McCoy-Hansen, sr., La Salle Prep; 2. Noah Curtis, sr./Abe Tsai, jr., Crescent Valley; 3. Alex Lindsay, jr./Austin Berg, jr., Summit; 4. Vincenzo Castaldo, sr./Iaden Gaines, sr., Churchill

2023 team scores: Summit 28, Crescent Valley 9, West Albany 6.5, Milwaukie 6

Notes: Wang made the semifinals last year and lost 6-3, 6-1 to Milwaukie's Aiden Yeung, a sophomore who is not playing this season. Wang played on a doubles runner-up team in 2022. Himstreet teamed with then-senior Zack Olander to win the doubles title last year. Curtis, who made the singles semifinals in 2022, combined with Tsai to make the doubles semifinals a year ago. McBride was the singles champion in 2022.


OSU Tennis Complex, Thursday-Saturday

Top singles seeds: 1. EJ Roedl, Marist Catholic, soph.; 2. Zareh Gonzalvo, Catlin Gabel, fr.; 3. Reid Ravassipour, St. Mary's, jr.; 4. Jack Hally, Ontario, jr.

Top doubles seeds: 1. Lucas Olander, jr./Richard Li, sr., Oregon Episcopal; 2. Peyton Tyner, sr./Andrew Forsyth, sr., Marist Catholic; 3. Nathan Chen, sr./Riley Nordhoff, jr., Catlin Gabel; 4. Sriram Dinesh, jr./Titus Stark-Seymour, jr., St. Mary's

2023 team scores: Marist Catholic 20, Oregon Episcopal 15, St. Mary's 10, Catlin Gabel 10

Notes: Roedl was the runner-up last year, losing 6-3, 6-2 in the final to Cascade's Zach Moore, who repeated as champion. Roedl is the only returning semifinalist. Tyner won the doubles title last year with Jack Kiefer, one year after they finished second. Olander/Li made the semifinals last year but lost to Tyner/Kiefer 6-4, 6-3.



Tualatin Hills Tennis Center, Thursday-Saturday

Top singles seeds: 1. Lauren Han, Clackamas, sr.; 2. Carissa Gerung, Jesuit, sr.; 3. Nikhitha Suresh, soph, Sunset; 4. Sonya Drayton, West Linn, soph.

Top doubles seeds: 1. Emerson Kearney, sr./Hayden Kearney, soph., Sheldon; 2. Arushi Arora, sr./Thara Rao, sr., Mountainside; 3. Tessa Rozendal, jr./ Malavika Rahul, soph., Westview; 4. Kate Paine, jr./Kitty Ayotte, jr., Jesuit

2023 team scores: Jesuit 19, Westview 16, Sheldon 12, West Linn 9

Notes: Han, a five-start recruit who has committed to Dartmouth, is ranked No. 1 in Oregon by Tennis Recruiting Network. In 2022, she defeated Westview's Neena Feldman for the title, but last year, Feldman stunned Han by beating her 7-5, 6-1 for the championship. Gerung made the semifinals the last two years, losing to Feldman in 2022 and to Han 6-1, 6-2 last year. Gerung defeated Suresh 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the Metro League district final. Arora and Suresh were quarterfinalists a year ago. The Kearneys were doubles runners-up last year, falling to a senior team from Jesuit 6-4, 6-3. The Kearneys beat Rozendal/Rahul in split sets in the semifinals a year ago.


West Hills Racquet and Fitness Club (Friday), Tualatin Hills Tennis Center (Saturday)

Top singles seeds: 1. Kennedy Harris, La Salle Prep, jr.; 2. Emily Gu, Crescent Valley, soph.; 3. Veronica Miller, Ashland, jr.; 4. Kate Bonetto, Summit, fr.

Top doubles seeds: 1. Zoe Hughes, sr./Anna Nguyen, sr., Crescent Valley; 2. Kaitlin Carter, soph./Avalon Donnelly, jr., La Salle Prep; 3. Paige Davisson, sr./Ashlyn Davisson, fr., Silverton; 4. Brynn Capps, sr./Grace Stott, sr., Redmond

2023 team scores: Crescent Valley 26, La Salle Prep 12.5, Silverton 6, Ridgeview 6

Notes: Harris repeated as champion last year, stopping Gu 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Miller has reached the semifinals the last two years, falling to Harris 7-5, 6-0 in 2022 and Gu 6-1, 6-4 in 2023. Bonetto, who attends the online school Oregon Charter Academy, is the sister of last year's 5A boys champion for Summit, Ben Bonetto. Nguyen won a state doubles title last year with Kiah Hollister. Nguyen's new partner, Hughes, was a doubles runner-up in 2022 and a doubles semifinalist last year. Crescent Valley has won the last two team titles.


OSU Tennis Complex, Thursday-Saturday

Top singles seeds: 1. Patricia Dougherty, Klamath Union, sr.; 2. Raegan Farm, North Bend, soph.; 3. Whitney Hedden, Marist Catholic, fr.; 4. Ryan Lomber, Valley Catholic, jr.

Top doubles seeds: 1. Phoebie Larson, soph./Stella Larson, soph., Marist Catholic; 2. Jiya Mehta, soph./Elise Kim, jr., Catlin Gabel; 3. Carys Chamberland, fr./Pratheeka Weerakoon, sr., St. Mary's; 4. Elise Seals, jr./Ellie Seals, fr., Vale

2023 team scores: Oregon Episcopal 13, Klamath Union 8.5, Catlin Gabel 8, North Bend 6, Philomath 6

Notes: Dougherty is going for her fourth state championship, counting the 4A Showcase title she won in 2021.She lost to Farm 6-4, 6-4 in the Special District 3 final. Last year, Farm beat Dougherty in split sets in the district final, but Dougherty defeated Farm 6-3, 7-6 in the state final. Dougherty's sister, Lily Inthisan, won a doubles state title for Klamath Union as a freshman in 2014. Dougherty does not plan to play in college, instead focusing on a nursing degree at Oregon Tech. Lomber made the semifinals last year but fell to Dougherty 6-0, 6-0. In doubles last year, the Larsons of Marist Catholic and Seals of Vale lost in the first round.