October 2021 ~
It wasn’t looking good for Cleveland High senior Cristin Sammis (Cleveland, 2002) in the 2002 state singles final against Wilson sophomore Momei Qu.
Qu had won the first set 6-4 and was up 4-1 and 30-love in game six of the second set.
“I was six points from losing,” recalls Sammis-Bansen, who married Joseph Bansen in 2012.
The situation looked so bleak that various fans and even some of Cristin’s supporters had left.
Sammis’ father had even gone to get the family car and bring it close to the door at Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation Center so they could get away quicker from the scene of such disappointment.
“Momei was playing amazing, and I was so frustrated,” Sammis-Bansen says.
And then came one swing of the racquet that somehow changed everything.
“I remember just hitting the ball as hard as I could, trying to get a winner, and I did,” she says. “Something shifted in that moment. I started winning point after point after point.”
Cristin won five games in a row to take the second set 6-4.
And the final set was all Sammis – she won it 6-1 to claim the title and lift Cleveland, coached by Tom Beatty, to second place in the girls team standings behind Jesuit.
It was the most intense match of a career in which she had traveled for junior tennis and went on to compete in college, first for North Texas and then for four years at the University of Portland.
“I can still hear the crowd” from that afternoon at Tualatin Hills.
“We’re not used to playing in front of that many people, with all your friends and people from school,” she says. “I don’t do particularly well with a lot of people watching me.
“There was so much pressure – it’s your senior year and you’re trying so hard. It’s really nerve-racking.”
Her amazing comeback, against a talented player in Qu who would win state in 2004 and later star for the University of Illinois, was “a pretty incredible feeling.”
Oh, and the car? It got towed, because once her father returned and began to see his daughter surge and catch fire, he wasn’t about to leave again and miss what was unfolding.
“We were so elated, we didn’t care,” Sammis-Bansen says.
It was a great capper to a terrific career at Cleveland, even without the car for a celebratory cruise.
Sammis-Bansen, who joined the PIL Hall of Fame in 2016, led Cleveland to four league championships in girls tennis. She was the PIL doubles champion as a junior with older sister Ashley, who went on to play for North Texas.
Their dad, Mark Sammis, got Cristin and Ashley into tennis when Cristin was about 6 years old. They attended Duniway Elementary and Sellwood Middle School while spending a lot of time at Eastmoreland Racquet Club.
“Dad would take us there and feed us balls,” Cristin says.
It was something the girls got to do, not something they had to do.
“I played tennis nearly every day and enjoyed it,” Cristin says.
Rare was the weekend when the girls weren’t involved in tournament play, often traveling around the Pacific Northwest with their parents.
Ashley, who is 17 months older, lives in Beaverton and teaches at an Aloha elementary school. She remains tight with Cristin, who lives in Portland.
“We both always had a strong desire to play, and we were fortunate to have each other,” Cristin says.
In those days, when a high school-age tennis player wanted to get a college scholarship, “you’d make a VHS video of yourself and send those off to different schools,” Cristin says.
Cristin got to visit Colorado State, North Texas and elsewhere before choosing to follow Ashley to North Texas in Denton, 40 miles from Dallas.
But “the coach and I didn’t see eye to eye,” and Cristin transferred to UP on a full ride under coach Susie Campbell-Gross.
“I wanted to play professional tennis and felt that I would have a better chance of doing that” back in Portland and with the Pilots.
Cristin wound up being plagued, though, by an injury to her right foot, tendinitis on top of the foot.
“It was super painful, with the pain shooting up my leg,” she says. “It was difficult to even run or get to a ball.”
The Pilots’ team captain was voted Most Inspirational Player, but she had so many injuries, a pro career just wasn’t possible.
“My last match at UP, I could barely walk,” she says.
A business school major, she decided to get into real estate. She also tried managing a restaurant but “decided I didn’t want to work 90 hours a week.”
She found her niche in commercial real state and with TMT Development in Portland. She has worked there for eight years and is associate vice president of operations.
She doesn’t play tennis anymore, “which is kind of sad,” but she is thinking of making a comeback of sorts, for personal and parental reasons.
Her children, sons Oskar and Arlo, are ages 3 ½ and 1 ½. It won’t be long till they have a racquet in their hands.
“We’ll get them started in sports, probably basketball, tennis and soccer,” says Cristin. Husband Joey grew up playing soccer.
“I would like to pick up tennis again, maybe when my boys can hit,” Cristin says. “I walk a lot now with them, and I do indoor spin. I definitely don’t have time to play a lot of tennis, though. I don’t even belong to a club anymore.”