Playing tennis outdoors in February is usually a losing prospect.
It wasn’t for the Union High boys tennis team. They were winning.
As the pandemic-squeezed season progressed into March, the Titans were standing tall in the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League with a 6-0 record.
They won their first five dual matches by sweeping their opponents. It wasn’t until last week when Camas stopped the run by winning two of six matches against the Titans.
“Our biggest obstacle has been the weather so far,” Union junior and the Titans’ No. 1 singles player Jacob Flentke said. “We haven’t been out to play lately, but we’ve been lucky to get (indoor) courts at Club Green Meadows.
“We haven’t played outside a lot lately due to the weather and that’s hindered us. But once we play outside more, I think this team is unbeatable.”
As a freshman in 2019, Flentke was part of a Union doubles team in that placed third at 4A state. Joining him this season is James Bertheau, a transfer from Mountain View who placed fourth at 3A state in doubles in 2019.
“I never would have expected to get that good a player transferring in,” Union coach Dave Heitsch said of Bertheau, who is a junior.
Bertheau played No. 1 doubles with Gabe Hapke against Camas, and they posted a routine 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Both players see the potential of this Titans team, which has only four seniors.
“We have lots of new freshmen, like four or five, and they just came in really good and are playing varsity,” said Hapke, a junior.
Another obvious obstacle for all tennis players is having to wear masks while competing.
“The mask kinda sucks,” Bertheau said, while wearing his mask after the match. “It gets wet after a while and you have to change it out.”
Hapke’s issue with it? “Really just breathing,” he said … through his mask.
A bigger issue for all tennis players is when the season ends next week, that’s it. There is no state tournament for a second year in a row.
“I think we could get a decent amount of players to regionals and state,” Hapke said if the season were to continue.
For now, the Titans will have to enjoy the run they are on.
“It’s really disappointing, but I get it,” Heitsch said of there being no state tournament. “I would love for the kids to have something after (the season).
“But we’ll be tough next year too.”