Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Portland State got a two-for deal in the Rogue Valley: two tennis players in one trip.
Wil Cochrane, a senior at Phoenix and last season's Class 4A/3A/2A/1A singles state runner-up, and Grants Pass' Kelsey Frey signed letters of intent with the Viking programs Friday at Rogue Valley Swim & Tennis Club.
Both players have been coached for years by Frank Inn, tennis director at RVSTC.
"Wil and Kelsey both have had aspirations to play Division I tennis," said Inn. "The championship level they played at in the Pacific Northwest, I felt, gave them a shot at it. Their performance the last two years provided the opportunity for them."
Both will play for Jay Sterling, Portland State's third-year head coach. The Vikings are members of the Big Sky Conference.
The men's team had an overall record of 5-13 last season and was 2-6 in the Big Sky. This year's eight-man roster doesn't have any seniors but has four juniors, and Cochrane believes he can have an impact when he joins the program.
"Portland State is a good fit," he said. "It's an up-and-coming program, and I'm really happy to be at the start of that."
His expectations are to challenge for one of the six playing spots on the roster in singles and doubles.
Cochrane always yearned to play college tennis, but it wasn't until he dedicated himself fully to the sport in the past two or three years that he made strides to that end.
"There were some years where I was looking at junior college," said the 17-year-old, who, like Frey, is ranked in the top 20 in the Northwest in the 18-year-old division. "I didn't think I was good enough to get up higher. Then, just like a summer ago, I feel like I really took a turn."
In addition to his work with Inn, Cochrane trained in Palm Springs, Calif., when his dad worked there during the winter.
The 6-foot-2, 155-pound Cochrane said he needs to develop more speed and consistency on his serve. He's gotten more aggressive the past two years, said Inn, adding that they are working to turn his power from the base line into a bigger weapon and improve his transition to the net.
"He's definitely learning how to use his physicality more," said Inn.
In the state championships last spring, Cochrane — the only Pirate player and the District 3 champion — fell in the title match to La Salle's top-seeded Luis Pineda, also a junor, 6-1, 6-2.
"This year, I'm definitely hoping to win it," said Cochrane.
Frey won't be in the mix on the prep scene. She played as a freshman and sophomore for Grants Pass High, but last year opted to train with Inn and play junior tournaments rather than play for the school. She'll do so again this year.
"It was a hard decision for me," said Frey, who drives to Medford three or four times a week. "I loved going to state my freshman and sophomore years, but I needed to play at a higher level. I was working toward a scholarship and needed to get better."
She played a couple tournaments a month and bumped that up last summer.
With her college plans set, she'll scale back to a half-dozen tournaments this school year.
"She's been going back-and-forth for a lot of years," Inn said of Frey's commute. "That's a lot of commitment for the parents, bless them. And she's been committed to playing tennis at a high level. She's had some nice competitive results the past two years."
Frey acknowledged the drive is a grind and costs a lot in gas money.
"But it's definitely worth it," she said.
She chose PSU over a couple other options with smaller schools. The Vikings were 6-12 and 3-5 last season.
Sterling impressed Frey with his coaching style.
"He made it clear that I was going to leave a better player after being with him for four years," said Frey. "That really was the deciding factor for me."
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com