Boys tennis: Elite depth driving Grant’s search for first state championship since 2015

As Josiah Mones’ sophomore season came to a close, the junior watched as six talented seniors left the Grant Generals varsity tennis team.

He questioned whether the Generals could still be a force in the Portland Interscholastic League in 2022. Mones, Grant’s No. 1 singles player, wondered if the door had swung closed on his team’s best chance to capture a state title during his COVID-19 ravaged high school career.

“Initially, I kind of thought that we weren’t going to be as strong,” he said. “But I think we all just kept playing during the offseason and everybody got a lot better.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, given the exodus of talent, it’s been the Generals’ depth that has paved the way to a 12-2 regular season and has coach John Carolan’s program once again knocking on the door of a state title.

Mones believes it’s the deepest team he’s played on. The depth has allowed Carolan to experiment with lineups more than usual. He keeps things fluid. And thus far, the shrewd adjustments have proven fruitful.

“In comparison to the teams we’ve played, we’ve had really good depth,” Carolan said. “We probably have like 18 players who can play solid varsity tennis against most other teams. It’s so much fun to coach a team that has a lot of competent players. Practice runs really smoothly.”

The Generals have won seven state titles in program history, with the most recent coming in 2015. Since then, Jesuit has won four in a row, as Grant — or its PIL rival Lincoln — finishing as the runner-up.

The postseason begins this week, and the same trio looks poised to dominate once again.

After an 8-0 start, Grant dropped his first match of the season in a 6-2 loss to Marist Catholic during the Bigfoot Invitational in Eugene. The Generals’ only other loss cam Saturday to Lincoln.

“Lincoln is probably the class of the league right now,” Carolan said. “They have a couple really top notch players… I don’t think expectations have really affected us a lot, because I think a lot of our guys view us as underdogs to Lincoln.”

Lincoln has plenty of weapons and has long been considered contenders in the state tournament. What Grant proved in its narrow 5-3 loss is that the Generals are a formidable team, as well. They know what they’re capable of. And even if they view themselves as an underdog, other teams may not. Talent-wise, Carolan’s group may be neck and neck.

Mones and fellow singles standout Burke Riley are contenders at the state tournament. So is Grant’s top doubles unit — the young duo of freshman Justin Garner and sophomore Simon Potter. Potter was a part of the state’s fourth-place doubles team with Mones last season, and would have qualified for state had there been a postseason last year.

“Some of our players lower down, like our No. 4 singles player Luke Chaplin, he just dominates…,” Mones said. “Chaplin and Michael Sullivan would probably be singles No. 2, or maybe even singles No. 1, but for us, we just have a lot of solid players.”

Depth will continue to act as the Generals’ calling card as they ride into the postseason and set their sights on the title that’s eluded them for seven years.

The OSAA state tennis tournament will run from May 19-21 at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

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