Ashland ninth after first day of tourney

MEDFORD — On paper, Josh Harris and Grant Kahn seem different.

Harris is a senior on the Ashland boys tennis team, and Kahn is just a freshman.

Harris has plenty of experience as a doubles player, while Kahn had never played doubles until this spring.

The two have different classes, different schedules and different styles. They use different words to describe their goals, and offer different observations of the state's tennis landscape.

But all those differences seem to disappear on the court, where the duo is 11-2 this year. They joined a bevy of top talent during Day 1 of the Medford/Ashland Tournament at North Medford High on Friday.

"My best friend had an injury and was out for the first five or six matches, so Grant was the next one in line to come up and play with me," explains Harris, who was the Class 5A state consolation champion along with partner Min-oh Suh last spring. "Another kid, Chas Barnard, finished second at state (with doubles partner Jeff Laskos) last year, but didn't play this year because he is focused on playing the cello. Grant stepped up and has done just as good if not better job. It's kind of an unlikely story, but it has come together really nicely."

Some of Oregon's best boys players were on display at the two-day challenge, which is the largest high school tourney in the state with 12 teams competing.

The participating schools are: Ashland, Barlow, Churchill, Corvallis, Marshfield, Newberg, North Medford, Roseburg, South Eugene, South Salem, Sprague and Summit.

After the first day, Sprague leads the points race with 104 points, Corvallis is second (94) and Roseburg third (67). The Grizzlies are ninth (27) and North Medford — the only other local squad — is 12th with eight points.

Harris and Kahn, seeded fifth in the No. 1 doubles bracket, easily won their first match of the day before dropping a two-set heartbreaker to a pair of tenacious Sprague players.

The Ashland pair downed North Medford's Kenny Pederson and Hunter Grow, 6-0, 6-1, early in the day. After a long wait that saw them first waiting patiently and then pacing around anxiously, they took on Scott Wheeler and Corbin Coursey, who are both Sprague freshmen.

The Olympian combination proved too much for Harris and Kahn, eking out a 7-5 first-set tiebreaker that took the wind out of Ashland's sails and then cruising to a 6-1 second-set victory.

Wheeler, whose parents Catharine and Gary are Sprague's coaches, and Coursey are now 8-1 together. They will play Corvallis' top-seed duo, Andy Boomer and Thor Dodson, in the semifinals today.

Harris and Kahn, meanwhile, will now look to get back on the winning track after being eliminated from the tourney. Aside from their loss on Friday, the duo's only other loss came in a nonconference match against 6A Roseburg's Matt Bruns and Patrick Foley.

"They are a great pairing," Ashland freshman Michael Montes says of Harris and Kahn. "They keep it together on the court, they cheer for each other and they are focused on positive things."

And they've learned plenty along their journey together.

Kahn is all ears when he talks with Harris, who rattled off three straight state consolation wins with Suh at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Beaverton last season.

"It's been nice having him as a partner," Kahn says. "He has a lot of tennis experience. Having a senior as a partner, he knows what he is doing in matches. It is nice having someone who is talented at the net and our games are always working together. I am more of a baseline player."

Against the Olympians, Harris and Kahn took a 6-5 lead in the first set, which they eventually lost 7-6. Wheeler and Coursey used several high-voltage serves and forehand winners amid a handful of thrilling rallies to tie things up and then pull out the tiebreaker, which the Grizzly pair trailed in early before tying the score at 4.

Ashland was quickly down a set and trailing 3-0 in the second set.

"We didn't have the spirit there anymore," Harris says. "We lost the first seven points and that set the tone for the rest of the set."

In other top-grouping action, Foley and Bruns will face a team from Summit in the semifinals today.

Meanwhile, Sprague's top-seeded Brent Wheeler will take on South Salem's fifth-seeded Hal Gordon. In the other No. 1 singles semifinal, Corvallis' Lorne Bulling (a third seed) will meet South Eugene's second-seeded Demetrius Fang.

They may have their differences — but Kahn and Harris' on-court objective remains the same.

"When I'm a senior, I'll have a lot more experience, and hopefully I'll have played at state all four years," Kahn says. "We have a good team and I think we can do well."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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