State tennis champion ponders his options

Union senior Alex Calpagiu has to decide between competing in singles or doubles for the postseason.

VANCOUVER — Alex Calpagiu will be all-in on the decision, once a decision is made.

But as of last week, he remained unsure how he was going to proceed as one of the leaders of the Union High School boys tennis team.

The Class 4A District 4 tennis tournament is later this week and a defending state champion is still trying to figure out if he should try to defend that title (with a new partner) or go solo.

Alex Calpagiu, a senior from Union, won a state tennis doubles title with Andrew Chanthavong last school year. Chanthavong has graduated and now Calpagiu and the Titans must decide whether to play singles or doubles in the postseason. Photo by Paul Valencia
Alex Calpagiu, a senior from Union, won a state tennis doubles title with Andrew Chanthavong last school year. Chanthavong has graduated and now Calpagiu and the Titans must decide whether to play singles or doubles in the postseason. Photo by Paul Valencia

“I like singles,” he said on one hand.

“It’s a lot more fun playing doubles,” he countered.

“I’ll be happy with either.”

Last spring, Calpagiu and Andrew Chanthavong teamed up at the last minute and then surprised even themselves with a Class 4A state doubles championship.

“It was crazy,” Calpagiu said. “We just wanted to qualify for state, really.”

If Chantahavong were still in high school, this would be an easy decision. However, he graduated in June.

Calpagiu, now a senior, has been playing mostly singles this fall season. But even that is not strange. He played singles at district as a freshman, plus he played singles during the regular season for much of his sophomore and junior campaigns before partnering up for doubles in the postseason.

In other words, Calpagiu is more than capable wherever he and his coach decide he should compete. Once postseason starts, though, there is no turning back on that decision.

In Southwest Washington, the regular season for boys tennis is in the fall. In Class 4A, that includes a district tournament this week, followed by a bi-district tournament later this month. Those who qualify for state must wait until spring for that tournament.

“It’s kind of his decision,” Union coach David Heitsch said. “I’m fairly confident he would at least finish in the top three (at district to qualify for bi-district) in singles. He also wants to win a state championship again. Doubles is his best option there.”

It is all about competition, and the competitive fire that all elite athletes have in their sports.

Should Calpagiu go singles, he will be battling Skyview’s Andrew Kabacy and Battle Ground’s Gunner Harlan, among others. Kabacy won the Class 4A state singles title in the spring. Harlan finished fourth at state.

Yes, it’s stacked here in Southwest Washington.

“In my opinion, four of the top six (singles) players in the state come from our league,” Heitsch said.

They can’t all go to state, not as singles.

Still, there is that competitive drive that on some days will pull Calpagiu toward singles.

Union tennis standout Alex Calpagiu looks up to his coach and teammates in between sets at a recent match. Calpagiu and the Titans will be talking a lot this week on how to proceed in the postseason. Will it be doubles or singles for Calpagiu? Photo by Paul Valencia
Union tennis standout Alex Calpagiu looks up to his coach and teammates in between sets at a recent match. Calpagiu and the Titans will be talking a lot this week on how to proceed in the postseason. Will it be doubles or singles for Calpagiu? Photo by Paul Valencia

Calpagiu has lost to Kabacy and Harlan this season, but he remains confident in his abilities.

“Every match, I go in knowing I still have the opportunity to beat them. We’re all putting in the work,” Calpagiu said. “I like playing them. We’ve really got close to each other. Friends off the court. Great competitors on the court. I love that.”

Then the memories from last season pull him toward doubles.

It was a very late decision to pair up Calpagiu and Chantahavong last season, to try to put together a “super team,” as the Titans called it.

Still, with very little experience working together – they competed together once in the fall of 2015 when Calpagiu was a sophomore – there was no guarantee of success.

Well, until the first match at district.

“We clicked the second we started playing together,” Calpagiu said.

They got through district and bi-district, and by the time they got to state, their mindsets had changed.

“We just got more and more confident,” Calpagiu said. “We both had the mentality that we didn’t want to lose. We had come so far.”

They lost a set in the semifinals and the championship, but survived both matches to win in three sets. Champions.

“It was insane,” Calpagiu recalled. “It took us a few seconds to realize we just won the whole state bracket.”

There is nothing like that championship feeling. And if Calpagiu does go with doubles, he believes he and and Quinn Lamey could go on a magical run, as well.

“I always know when I’m on the court I have my whole team behind me,” Calpagiu said. “I’m playing for them, and I always know I have their support.”

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