TURNER – Jaja Osuna Sola and Tori Lewis didn’t come together as a doubles team by accident, and their bond can never be duplicated.
When they were in kindergarten, their elder siblings were in the same class. When their mothers went to pick up their siblings, Lewis and Osuna Sola first played games together.
From that point until now the No. 1 doubles team as juniors at Cascade High School, they have been best friends.
They’re the kind of inseparable friends where not only do they finish each other’s sentences, but they pull bugs out of each other’s hair.
“And our families are super close,” Lewis said. “We go to Christmases to their house, holidays.”
High school tennis coaches often try to manufacture bonds between doubles teams by having them play together a few times before a district tournament.
The kind of bond that Lewis and Osuna Sola share is one only forged with time.
“It’s really nice to be best friends with your partner,” said Osuna Sola, who’s first name is pronounced Ha Ha.
Through they’ve played together since they could barely walk, they didn’t play a sport together until they were in sixth grade and ran cross country.
They started playing volleyball together in middle school and have been teammates ever since.
Though Lewis is distantly related to Cascade tennis coach Ron Suelzle and comes from an athletic family, it was the athleticism of Osuna Sola that first intrigued him.
Suzlele remembers when he was at a birthday party when Osuna Sola was in fifth grade, and decided then that he had to get her to come play tennis when she got to high school.
“Jaja is on a trampoline doing full flips, like stiff body flips,” Suelzle said.
When they first came out to play tennis as freshmen, though, they weren’t automatically put into a doubles team.
They each played some singles and some doubles with other teammates while they learned the sport, but it wasn’t until they were put together that they found their destiny.
They placed fourth at the 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2 tournament last season as sophomores, which advanced them to the state meet.
They lost in the first round of the state meet, but won their first consolation match.
That success showed them the potential they possess on the tennis court.
“For me when you realize like we can actually do good together and stuff instead of just like, we’re messing around, started taking it more serious, I would say,” said Lewis, a 3.97 grade point average student.
They both played on Cascade’s co-Oregon West Conference champion volleyball team this fall and, unsurprisingly, play the same position, outside hitter.
Lewis was the Oregon West Conference player of the year in volleyball and Osuna Sola was a key player off the bench.
The dynamic between Osuna Sola and Lewis is completely different on the volleyball court than the tennis court.
“With just us we can talk to each other and figure on what’s going on with each other rather than consulting the whole team,” said Osuna Sola, who holds a 4.0 GPA.
Lewis developed into a standout volleyball player, and that wasn’t by accident.
She’s played club volleyball for a number of years and in the past had to miss parts of tennis practice. But she moved to a different team this year – one that only requires few practices – so she’s dedicated herself more to tennis.
“She’s so confident on the volleyball court, and she’s becoming more confident on the tennis courts. Tori, by her nature is a little more on the quiet side. They always have a smile on their face, they love each other,” Suelzle said.
After so many years together, there is nothing that is going to separate them.
Even if someone tried, they couldn’t.
“If I separate them, they’ll go to track,” Suelzle said.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler
Boys tennis preview
Greater Valley Conference: For once, there is no favorite to win the district singles championship. Sprague senior Logan Blair, who won the district championship the past two years, is combining with his brother, Judson, to play doubles this season, and they will be the favorite despite McMinnville returning the district championship team of juniors Cooper Rich and Nick Denley.
Sprague also has a deep team including Nate Harder, Sebastian Hammond, Ben Whitson, Anthony Martinez and Josiah Barkes and should return to their district championship perch.
South Salem has a strong senior class including Ben Beyer, Sebastian Linares, Trenton Bastasch, Alvin Deng and freshman Breaden Brooks could contend for the district championship under new coach Brett Hall, formerly of West Albany. McNary’s doubles team of Alfonso Pacheco and Abram Lepesh should be formidable.
Mid-Willamette Conference: The league is up for grabs as graduations took their toll. Dallas returns Josh Dudley, a state qualifying doubles player last season.
4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 1: Oregon Episcopal School is the defending state champion. Blanchet moves Spencer Schibig and Dakota Juhring to singles and has a strong group of upperclassmen including Michael Chan, William Yeun, George Gao and Macos Maza.
4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2: Cascade has big numbers and should be in contention for the district championship. State qualifying seniors Jake Nelson and Daniel Suelzle are pairing up in doubles and should contend for the district doubles championship, and the doubles team of Peyton Hunt and Michael Biddington should be formidable as well. Exchange student Yanik Hulbert, from Germany, could contend for the district singles championship.
Girls tennis preview
Greater Valley Conference: McMinnville is the favorite to win the team championship, but there are plenty of spots in the league up for grabs. South Salem’s doubles team of twins Jillian and Loryn Studer were the district doubles runner-up last season, and are the favorite to win the district crown.
The Saxons have a deep team with Katlyn Paluska, Lindsay Flood, Abby Fedor, Selbie Christensen, Kellie McSween and Chloe Elmore and could move up from their third place in the league last season. McNary junior Hannah Childress was a state qualifier in singles last year and could push district champion Ceanne Elliott of West Albany for the top spot. West Salem’s Anya Gerasimova also will be a district contender, and the Titans have a deep group including Yancee Gordon, Sonia Camacho, Dea Morrison, Jordon Macias and Katie Brock that will make the team tough in dual meets.
Sprague has depth with Sarah Teubner, Paige Clarke and Alaena Sullivan and should contend for a top three placing in the district. McKay’s team of Montse Coria and Lily Lam won the consolation bracket at the district meet last year and should be a threat on the championship side of the bracket this year.
Mid-Willamette Conference: Corvallis is the defending state champion and will be a state contender again with the second (Anna Kern) and third (Tessa Kern) placing singles players in the state. Central has improved singles players with Julia Jamar and Diana Huerte and should be competitive.
4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 1: Molalla was one of the top teams in the state last year, but Cascade has the depth to push them. The Cougars return state qualifiers Jaja Osuna Sola and Tori Lewis and has a deep roster of Erica Mitchell, Kenadee Davidson, Meriah Kindell, Mariah Hollenbeck and Grace Moul that should put the team in contention for the league title.
4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2: Catlin Gable is the defending state champion. Blanchet returns its state qualifying doubles team of Tessa Sullivan and Sophia Poole.