Ashland No. 1 singles player Grant Kahn qualified for the Class 5A state tournament when he advanced to the Midwestern Conference district semifinals Monday.
But that doesn't mean that the pressure will be off today, when he and teammate Mischa Kirby travel back to Eugene for a chance to claim a district championship and possibly secure a Class 5A state meet seed.
"My goal wasn't to make it to state, my goal was to win state," said Kahn, a junior who advanced to the 5A singles state quarterfinals last season. "I pretty much knew I was going to make it to state, so the goal was to win districts and get a seed at state, make it a little easier for me."
Kahn and Kirby, a sophomore, will be the only representatives of the Ashland High boys tennis team today at the Eugene Swim & Tennis Club, where the MWL will be wrapping up both its boys and girls district tournaments.
In the girls tourney, Ashland's Ashley Knecht and River Davis will face off in one singles semifinal, with the winner advancing to the district final and the loser to the third-place match. Ashland also has two doubles teams squaring off for a trip to the final, with two-time defending state champion Hanna Greenberg and Vika O'Brien playing Katy Barner and Cass Christopher.
The top four singles players and doubles teams from each district automatically qualify for state, so everyone competing today has already locked up a berth in next week's state tournament.
Kahn will face Marist's Jordan Gorman in the MWL semis, while Kirby will take on Churchill sophomore Nathan Hampton, the top seed, in the other final four match.
Hampton beat Kahn in the state quarterfinals last year, 6-2, 6-2, and also won a rematch this season, 6-3, 6-3.
"I think I just gotta stick to my game plan," Kahn said of a possible district championship match versus Hampton. "I feel like I'm as good a player as (Hampton), it's just kind of a confidence thing — I need to play like I know I can. I feel like in our previous matches, I've gone in not really expecting to win and trying to hold on. This time, I'm going to go in with a lot more confidence."
Kirby will be looking for the semifinal shocker against Hampton, who advanced to the state semifinals last year as a freshman.
In the girls tournament, Ashland coach Gail Patton expects a competitive match between Knecht, the No. 2 seed, and Davis, who's No. 3. The teammates play against each other in practice, but only to work on specific aspects of their game.
"It'll be interesting," said Patton, who guided the Grizzlies to their second state championship last season. "I think it'll be a close match and whoever wins will be whoever can put aside the fact that they are teammates."
The doubles tournament isn't expected to be quite as tight. Greenberg and O'Brien will be gunning for their third straight state doubles title next week and have yet to lose a game at districts.
For Barner and Christopher, Patton says third place is a reasonable goal.
"I told (Barner and Christopher), 'I do not want you to feel like you've made it to state and that's the end result,'" Patton said. "I want them to feel like there's more to be done with their season. So their goal is to take third."
The girls singles and boys doubles semifinal matches are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., followed by the boys singles semis. The championship matches are slated to start at 11 a.m.
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 and email@example.com.