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Eagle boys tennis wins league title

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | May 15, 2024 2:00 AM

SOAP LAKE — In just the fourth season since returning to the courts, the Soap Lake boys tennis team came out on top of last week’s Central Washington B league tournament, headlined by Xavier Gonzales-Robinson reaching the finals in singles and Francisco Ortega and Logan Northup making the doubles finals.

“We started it four years ago; I know they had tennis a while back, but they haven’t had tennis here for a long time,” Soap Lake head coach Lee Leavell said. “To go from, basically, teaching kids the absolute basics of tennis, to now having three kids get second place and then taking home a league championship, it’s pretty special.”

Soap Lake scored 18 points at the league tournament, finishing just ahead of Entiat and Manson, who tied for second with 17 points. The further a player or doubles team advances in the tournament, the more the points increase, Leavell said.

The league tournament combined both 1B and 2B tennis teams from District 6, with the top four teams from each bracket advancing to this week’s district tournament.

The opening two rounds of the tournament were played May 8, with the later rounds played on Saturday at the Harmony Meadows Tennis Center in Manson.

“Having two teams make it that far allowed us to get more points than the other teams,” Leavell said. “We ended up only winning it by one point, which is pretty crazy.”

Leavell credited the player’s preparation time not just during team practices, but outside of team activities as well for their ability to win the league title.

“Those kids play all the time — in the summers, after practice is done, before practice starts – all that time they put into it, I really think paid off in a big way,” Leavell said. “There wasn’t necessarily a game plan or strategy as much as the prep work going into it.”

All three of the league tournament finalists are sophomores, setting up even higher goals in the coming years.

“In both brackets, we had kids from our team make it extremely deep, which is really cool to see,” Leavell said. “And I can’t stress it enough — they are sophomores. That’s another really cool element is, they have so much more room for growth and they’ve already come so far as it is.”

Leavell also credited assistant coach Clarissa Larsen for helping out with the team this season; this is Larsen’s first season with the Eagles.

“My new assistant coach this year has been an important figure in helping these kids get to where they are this year,” Leavell wrote in a message to the Columbia Basin Herald. “Her work has been such a major help.”

District competition sees the Central Washington B leagues combine with the Caribou Trail League, with the top four in each bracket advancing to the 1A/2B/B State Tournament in Yakima. The district tournament began Tuesday afternoon at the Lake Chelan Shores Resort and continues on Thursday.

After showing success at the league tournament, the Eagles have their sights set on making it to state.

“I hope they go into the district tournament feeling proud of what they accomplished, but not content with what they’ve accomplished,” Leavell said. “That was the message of (Monday’s practice); pat yourself on the back, be happy, but the job’s not finished. We set a goal for making state this year, so we have one tournament left in our way.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

    Soap Lake assistant coach Clarissa Larsen, left, sophomore Francisco Ortega, sophomore Xavier Gonzales-Robinson and Head Coach Lee Leavell pose with the trophy after winning the Central Washington B league tournament on Saturday.