The St. Mary's Academy team of Vy Lam (left) and Olivia Kuchela (right) is 8-0. (Photo courtesy St. Mary's Academy)
The St. Mary's Academy team of Vy Lam (left) and Olivia Kuchela (right) is 8-0. (Photo courtesy St. Mary's Academy)

As far as winning formulas go, it's not exactly foolproof.

So far this tennis season, though, coming from behind in matches has been working for the St. Mary's Academy doubles team of juniors Vy Lam and Olivia Kuchela.

“They don't mind it. They like the challenge,” Blues coach Brian Quisling said. “It keeps it exciting for them. They typically find themselves in a position where they need to come back.”

Lam and Kuchela have have not dropped a set in winning all eight of their matches. Monday, they rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the first set to beat a Lake Oswego senior Julia Yazhari and freshman Ella Eames 6-4, 6-0. Wednesday, they were behind throughout the first set before prevailing 7-6, 7-6 over Lakeridge senior Sophie Lowy and sophomore Catharine Agan.

“They've become super tough in the tiebreakers,” Quisling said. “They don't mind the tiebreaker, which is pretty consistent with the theme of coming back. They seem to enjoy it.”

Two years ago, Lam and Kuchela played No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, but did not qualify for the 6A tournament They requested to pair up this season, and Quisling granted their wishes.

“I was going to do it last year, as well,” Quisling said. “After their freshman year, they actually went on a tournament tour over the summer together all over the country, and they both really leveled up their games.”

Lam and Kuchela, the team's captains, play an aggressive style, taking turns coming up to the net.

“They're both pretty active,” Quisling said. “It's pretty fun to watch them play. They're not big people, but they're able to generate power.”

St. Mary's Academy completes its 11-match schedule in the Three Rivers League this week. The league won't have a district tournament, but the Blues have scheduled nonleague matches with Grant and Central Catholic next week.

Lam and Kuchela will face Grant's unbeaten doubles team of senior Hayley Kreps and sophomore Marina Seidel.

“That will be kind of like bragging rights for the city,” Quisling said.

Super frosh

One of the top freshman girls players in the nation will have to wait another year to go after a 6A championship.

Clackamas freshman Lauren Han, rated as a four-star prospect by, would have been one of the favorites for a state singles title this year.

“I'm really bummed that it got canceled,” Han said. “But that's OK, I can keep focusing on the rest of the season, and hopefully I can play next year. I'm definitely looking forward to that. I really want to play state, and hopefully I can win.”

Han said she will remain at Clackamas when the school splits with Nelson in 2021-22. Ranked No. 77 in the nation for her class, she is enjoying her debut in high school tennis.

“I just like playing on the team. It's really fun for me,” she said. “It's different than just playing by myself. When I play high school, it's like playing for my whole team, too.”

Han has dominated in her four matches this season, not dropping more than two games in a match. She won 6-1, 6-1 against Wilson senior Eryn Fiabane, a 6A semifinalist in 2019. And she won 6-0, 6-1 over Central Catholic senior Grace Truong, a state qualifier two years ago.

“It shows her level,” Clackamas coach Satomi Tsumura said. “I've watched a lot of players in my nine years as coach, but I've never seen such a great player. She can get in trouble and come back and get the point. She's really good at the angle shots and the drop shots. She's got everything.

“She is awesome. When I saw her first time, I kind of went, 'Oh my gosh.' She's such a nice player. Really surprising.”

Han has played in two Level 3 club tournaments during the season. She placed fifth at an event in Arizona and won the 16-and-under division at a sectional tournament at Vancouver Tennis Center, one of the biggest victories of her young career.

“I've been kind of on a winning streak,” Han said. “I'm just trying to keep it up as I play more national tournaments. … I'm trying to get to D-I. That's like my goal.”

Sprague rookie

Another freshman making a strong debut is Sprague's Tirzah Tarbox.

Playing No. 1 singles, Tarbox is undefeated in five matches. She also teamed up with senior Eva Hammond to win a match at No. 1 doubles.

Tarbox has won all of her matches in straight sets except for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Crescent Valley freshman Kerry Lin.

“Tirzah is a great competitor on the court, playing each point with focus and determination,” Sprague coach Jennifer Schmelling said. “As a freshman, Tirzah has great potential. I have no doubt that with her drive and commitment, she will continue to develop her knowledge and strategies of the game and refine her strengths from this season.”