Kyle Fager wasn’t supposed to play in the 69th Inland Empire High School Tennis Tournament. The No. 3 boys singles player at Lewis and Clark, the freshman figured to be the odd-man out when it came to tournament entries.
But No. 1 singles player Luke Brittan opted to take an SAT class Saturday morning, which conflicted with the scheduled start of the tournament semifinals.
That meant No. 2 singles player Jordan Strandness would move up to play No. 1 singles and Fager would play No. 2 singles.
“I didn’t think about,” said the red-headed Fager, grinning. “I found out I was playing, and next thing I knew, I was playing.”
Fager made the most of his chance, winning his division – beating Richland’s Nathan Lipton in the semis 6-0, 6-1, and Moscow’s Ian Wendt in the final 6-1, 6-1.
The win is a testament to the depth of the LC’s boys roster.
Strandness reached the No. 1 singles final before losing to top-seeded Zach Fisher of Richland, 1-6, 2-6. The Tigers’ No. 2 doubles team of Jacob Johnson and Ryan Demars won their division, topping Richland’s Justin Chua and Colton Hamm, 6-4, 6-3.
For Fager, the IE title will have to suffice. There is no place for him on the LC postseason roster.
“I’m blocked for the postseason,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to playing club tennis.
“I learned a lot from this experience. In my third match I lost the first set and had to find a way to battle back so that I could move on. You learn how to find a groove for yourself and stay there.”
Finding a groove proved tricky Saturday. Gusty winds proved challenging.
“If you play tennis around here, you have to learn how to play with wind,” Mead coach and tournament director Bill Wagstaff said. “Over the years we’ve had just about every weather challenge you can imagine.”
Playing into the wind turned offensive lobs into sitting ducks; playing with the wind at your back made a strong forehand sail long.
West Valley-Yakima turned in a strong showing, with each of the Rams’ entries capturing a medal.
Top-seeded sophomore Chloe Goyette made short work of the No. 1 girls singles final, dispatching Caitlin McHugh of Coeur d’Alene, 6-1, 6-0. Older sister Caroline Goyette and teammate Makenzie Kinloch lost to Southridge duo Sofia Morison and Bailee Sanderson, 5-7, 2-6. No. 2 doubles entry Kayla Withers and Delany Robinson lost to eventual champions Shyley Sullivan and Emily Koehler of Southridge in the semifinals, but knocked off Rachel Koentopp and Samantha Thorne of Ferris to capture third place. Elena Riehl and Emily Harris captured the No. 3 doubles title for the Rams, knocking off Samantha Pickett and Micki Rhies of University 6-1, 6-4.
Ferris won the No. 1 mixed doubles, with Courtney Provan and Alex Siok knocking off Kianna Arthur and Gregory Arthur of Clarkston 6-0, 6-1.