Blackhawks tennis wins second GNL title

Tennis Axtell 2

Back in March, before the season started, Cheney High boy’s tennis coach Jesse Erickson said his team had a “good shot” of winning a second Great Northern League regular season championship — and he was right.

The Blackhawks (7-1 GNL, 12-1 overall) wrapped up their regular season with a 6-1 win over West Valley, May 9, and in the process claimed a share of the district title with Pullman (7-1, 13-1).

“To have back-to-back league titles is great,” Erickson said. “I’m super proud of our guys. They’ve put in a lot of time and effort this season.”

Ryan Axtell, No. 1 singles, and Shogo Starr, No. 4, both earned 6-0, 6-0 shutouts over Troy Cleaver and Deliece Davis, respectively.

“Heading into the district tournament, we want to look our best and that’s what Ryan did,” Erickson said. “Shogo finished the season undefeated, he was a good anchor for us all season.”

No. 2 Mason Van Stone defeated Hunter Dean and No. 3 Brandon Foster won his match against Dylan Almeida with identical 6-0, 6-1 scores.

In doubles, No. 1 Adam Passey and Luke Huguenin lost to Spencer Glass and Gunnar Chebriak (4-6, 6-3, 6-2). Erickson noted that this match was closer than the first time Passey and Huguenin faced Glass and Chebriak in April.

No. 2 Aaron Fillmore and Hayden Bennett defeated Collin Boucher and Jake Boles (6-0, 6-1) while Dirk Ray and Aleksandr Chernega won a close match against Trevor MacArthur and Nick Crane (6-1, 7-6).

“Aleksandr and Dirk were able to close the match and showcase their experience against a younger team,” Erickson said.

Prior to the match, eight graduating seniors were honored. Erickson said “it will be a little rough losing” the bulk of his varsity lineup next season.

With another regular season title in the trophy case, Cheney will compete in the District 7 tournament, May 20-21, at Washington State University.

Last year, former Blackhawk Ryan Smedley took second to advance to regionals and then went on to state.

For this year’s tournament, Erickson said he may put Foster and Starr together in the doubles bracket. Although they did not play together during the regular season, they went 2-1 in the Inland Empire tournament in April. Another possible doubles pairing for Cheney is Van Stone and Axtell, who have spent the entire season in singles. The two teamed up in during the 2014 season.

“We’ve got one goal down and that was winning the league title,” Erickson said. “Our next goal is to send someone to state. I think we have a good shot.”

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