Redmond High’s boys tennis team has one player who made a name for himself at last year’s Class 5A state tournament and others who would like to do the same in 2018.

After losing his first round match, Benny Saito rebounded and didn’t lose again, taking the consolation bracket title at the 2017 state tournament. So far in 2018, the junior is off to another strong start, winning his first four matches against players from The Dalles, Crook County, Sisters and Madras in straight sets, giving up only three games in the process.

But state is a long ways off, Saito said at the start of the season.

“Right now, I’m just focused on doing my best and just getting better every day,” he said. “I don’t want to look too far ahead.”

The experience at state last season showed Saito just how good the competition is.

“I learned that there are some really good players, and a lot of state-level tennis is really different,” he said.

Saito is focusing more on tennis this year, not playing on the Panthers basketball team in the winter. He practiced tennis indoors five or six days a week and played in some tournaments during the high school offseason.

Benny’s father, Redmond coach Nathan Saito, said the competition will be tough if he wants to improve his placement at state in 2018.

“A lot of the kids he played were underclassmen, freshmen and sophomores, so it’s going to be another challenge,” Nathan Saito said.

The coach is hopeful for a strong season for the Panthers. He is pleased that 30 players came out for the varsity and junior varsity teams and would like to see others reach state this season.

“It’s a good number,” he said. “It’s enough to have a competitive program, but it’s not so many where you can’t work with them all.”

Redmond only lost one senior from last season’s team, Nathan Saito said.

“Everyone else is back, and we added a handful of freshmen,” he said.

Redmond is also featuring its No. 1 doubles team of senior Conner Lennie and junior Garrett Gross, which also got off to a 4-0 start. The first-year team of veteran players says they fit well together.

“We have very good communication, in and outside of tennis,” Gross said. “I think the duo is pretty solid.”

The rest of the team is coming along, as well, Gross said.

“We look pretty strong as a team,” he said. “We have new kids and veterans like Conner.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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