Richland's Zuroske, Hermiston's Berger top All-Area tennis squads

By Annie Fowler, Herald staff writer June 9, 2009 

Last week, Troy Zuroske participated in spring football drills at Richland High, then headed to the tennis courts to play a couple of matches.

You can change the sports seasons, but you can't take away the desire to smash a tennis ball down the line.

That dedication helped Zuroske to a third-place finish at the 4A state tennis tournament and the distinction of being the Tri-City Herald's boys tennis player of the year.

"There was some great competition out there," said the Richland junior. "I played at my peak this year. I was nervous before a few matches -- when I played Hanford, the regional finals and the first round at state. I just played my heart out at the tournament and got a pretty good result."

Hermiston's Richole Berger was named the girls player of the year, while Richland boys coach Felix Quinn and Hermiston's girls coach Curt Berger were named the top coaches.

Zuroske's third-place finish, coupled with Chris Shallman and Taylor Dickey's sixth-place finish in doubles, helped the Bombers to the team title -- its first since 2002.

"The team title means more to me than third place," said Zuroske, who also won the 4A district title and was second at the 4A regionals. "High school tennis is a team sport, and to be a team leader and bring home a state title is a good feeling. I felt like I did my job."

Richole Berger put herself in an elite group when she won the Oregon 5A singles title. Berger, who had three state doubles titles to her credit before going solo this year, won her fourth title and is just one of seven girls to win four titles since the state tournaments began in 1946, but the only one to have won in doubles and singles.

"This was different than last year," said Berger, who will attend UAB in the fall. "All of my league matches are singles, and at districts I usually play doubles. They were surprised when I didn't. There have been Bergers in doubles for a long time."

There also was some talk at state when the youngest of the three Berger girls was in the singles bracket, but in the end the result was the same, and she equaled her sister Rebecca's four state titles (all in doubles).

"When you've won before, people think you should win," said Berger, who was 27-0 this season and 114-2 in her career. "I think I should win. I train hard and I stay focused. For me it was a good accomplishment. Seeing what my sister had done, I knew it could be done. It was one of my goals."

Hermiston also took home its third straight team title.

"Looking back and seeing what our family has done, it's pretty special," said Berger, whose family has 10 state titles and three team titles since 2004.

Rachel Berger won two doubles titles with sister Rebecca, who then won two more with Richole. Richole then won one doubles title with Alison Hawman before winning a singles title.

Curt Berger, a self-taught tennis player and coach, brought Hermiston its first-ever state title in 2001 with the wrestling team. With girls tennis, he's added three team trophies to the mix.

"I have had a great run with tennis, and it's been a tremendous opportunity to work with my kids," said Berger, who is stepping down as the girls tennis coach, but will remain as the wrestling coach.

Quinn, who has been with the Richland tennis program since 1997, took over as boys coach this season after Michelle Martin stepped down after last season.

"I learned a lot from her," Quinn said. "I made it easy on myself this year, hiring an excellent girls coach (Kasey Knox) so I only had half the program to worry about. I also had some great assistant coaches and with that, it was a fairly easy road to hoe."

All Area boys tennis squad

First team

MVP--Troy Zuroske, Jr., Richland, won CBBN district title, placed third at 4A state.

Luke Thompson, Fr., Hanford, Won CBBN 3A district and regional titles; sixth at state.

Jake Knox, Sr., and Curtis Lan, Sr., Hanford, came together late in the season and combined to win CBBN 3A district and Eastern Regional titles, finish second at state tournament.

Taylor Dickey, Sr., and Chris Shallman, Sr., Richland, combined to finish second at CBBN 4A district and Eastern Regional tournaments; placed sixth at state tournament.

Felix Quinn, coach, Richland, first-year coach guided Bombers to district, regional and 4A state titles.

Second team

Singles--Luca Barro, sr., Riverside; Rogi Fajardo, sr., Grandview; Doubles--Eduardo Chavez, sr.-Bradley Fox, jr., Connell; Sam Harris, sr.-TD Peterson, jr., Othello

All Area girls tennis squad

First team

MVP-- Richole Berger, Sr., Hermiston, UAB signee won IMC district, Oregon 5A state titles.

Sam Merry, Soph., Hanford, finished second at CBBN 3A districts and regionals; went 1-2 at state.

Demie Warner, Jr., and Ali Welch, Jr., Kamiakin, won Tri-City Invite and Inland Empire titles; rebounded from second at districts, third at regionals to win 4A state championship.

Cassandra Dicken, Jr., and Becky Sharpe, Jr., Hanford, took third at Tri-City Invite; won CBBN 3A district and Eastern Regional titles; finished 1-2 at state.

Curt Berger, coach, Hermiston, Bulldogs won Oregon 5A state title for third straight year.

Second team

Singles-- Tabatha Bear, sr., Connell; Mary Hawman, soph., Hermiston. Doubles--Jessica Eldrige, sr.-Hannah Wicks, sr., Hermiston; Jadee Roylance, sr.-Jessy Schmidt, sr., Othello.

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