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Ashland High’s Rox Rogers hoping to cap senior season with another big showing at state

ASHLAND — For the past 12 months, all Ashland High School senior Rox Rogers has been thinking about is being just one place better than he was a year ago.

Knowing where he ended the 2017 tennis season, it’s made total sense.

“I feel like being that close gave me a taste of how much I want it,” said Rogers, who was the OSAA Class 5A state runner-up. “I never really realized how much it meant to me until I got there.”

Rogers’ high school tennis career is down to its final two weeks, with the Class 5A District 3 semifinals and finals this Saturday in Eugene and then the state tournament up in Portland the week after.

As much as there are expectations for him to do big things at the state level — one where his head coach, Ari Zaslow, expects him to be the top seed — Rogers only has eyes on the second and final day of districts.

“The competition is pretty rough, pretty tough,” Rogers said. “Everybody is skilled, everybody is tough. Right now, there’s a lot of tough competition and I just need to keep my mentality right and try to expect the best.”

But there’s no denying that once the state tournament starts up on May 17, Rogers will be one of the names — if not the guy — to beat in singles competition.

That’s just what happens when last season’s state champion — in this case, Carter Quigley of Summit — graduates and you’ve still got a year left of high school tennis to play.

“He’s definitely motivated and been playing a lot since last year,” Zaslow said. “He’s been looking pretty sharp.”

A Rogers state title in singles would be the first-ever in school history, with Ashland’s only two state championships in boys tennis coming in doubles competition.

One of those just so happens to have Rogers’ name attached to it.

As a sophomore, Rogers was one half of a state title-winning doubles team with then-senior Kai Weston, the first time in 38 years that an Ashland doubles team took first at the event.

Since then, his hair has grown out a little bit, a beard has appeared and his game has developed into a well-rounded skillset.

“There’s not a lot of players at his level,” Zaslow said. “Every year he’s just added more to his game. He’s been developing a big kick serve the past year, he’s been more aggressive overall. He’s turning into a more well-rounded player in his senior year.”

Rogers credits his time playing doubles as the thing that’s helped him have more of a diverse arsenal the past two seasons as a singles player.

“Doubles is more a serve-and-volley type game. In singles, I needed to prepare more on staying back and staying in points longer,” Rogers said. “Doubles has helped me define my net game and volley game. You have to be a little more mentally tough in singles with more grind-it-out matches.”

Rogers hasn’t done anything this season to doubt that making it to the 5A title match was a fluke.

The way Rogers has played there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be in contention for another state title match appearance.

No matter the opponent, be it in the Midwestern League or a non-league contest against a bigger school, the result has almost always been the same.

That would be a Rogers win.

It was no different to start the district meet last weekend, with Rogers coming out strong after his first-round bye to roll into the semifinals.

“I feel like I’m playing pretty solid tennis, but I still have to keep my mentality tough,” Rogers said. “I feel like that’s going to be the biggest thing for me is to be staying concentrated.”

Rogers has gotten to enjoy all of his success over the course of his senior season alongside his younger brother, Brayden, who is a freshman with the Grizzlies.

The younger Rogers will also be going to Portland next weekend — and it won’t be as a spectator, either, as he is part of Ashland’s No. 1 doubles team with senior Zur Shelton that is also still alive at the district meet.

“I love it so much,” Rox said when asked about Brayden being on the team this season. “This year my brother gets to hang out with me and we’ve got the senior and freshman combination going. He’s got incredible chemistry going with his doubles partner, Zur Shelton, too.”

Rogers plans to attend George Fox University, an NCAA Division III school, in the fall and will be a part of the tennis team come the spring.

It’s a program that fits the billing both in terms of what wants in the classroom and on the tennis court.

And even though he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, capping his career with a state title would be a good thing to start his biography on the George Fox website.

“I think it would be great, obviously great for the program and great for him,” Zaslow said. “He’s been working hard the last couple of years to win it in singles.”

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.