Sports

Ground strokes begin for tennis season

Kentwood sophomore Kathryn Araki practices hitting drills against a wall during practice on March 24. - Courtesy photo
Kentwood sophomore Kathryn Araki practices hitting drills against a wall during practice on March 24.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

There is little state experience returning to the tennis courts in the SPSL 4A North Division. While Kentridge and Mount Rainier are the clear favorites, Kentlake, Kentwood and Tahoma are all in various stages of building contending programs.

“Rather than looking at it as a rebuilding year I take the approach that it’s an opportunity to lay the foundation for a very competitive program this year and for years to come,” said Mike McCaffrey, Tahoma’s first year head coach.

Kentlake

Goals and expectations:

After graduating seven of its eight varsity players from 2013, coach Barry Fredericks knows 2014 could be similar to last year’s 2-8 campaign. The squad is returning just three letter winners.

“My expectations this year are that we continue to improve each match and be better at the end of the year than at the start,” he said.

Biggest challenges:

Extreme inexperience. Fredericks said some of the ladies have never played competitive tennis before this spring.

Returners to watch:

• Marianne Kim, Senior — Will play either No. 1 singles or No. 1 doubles.

• Alisa Vinje, Senior — Aggressive player with improved net play.

• Natalie Leonard, Sophomore — Solid all-around with high upside.

Newcomers:

• Sierra Marlow, Sophomore — New to tennis but has a solid foundation to build on.

• Cassidy Sawyer, Sophomore — Still learning to play, but good ground strokes.

Tahoma

Goals and expectations:

Following a 4-6 record in 2013, McCaffrey will have plenty of youth to mold, with nine freshmen and seven sophomores, most of who are relatively new to the sport.

“My expectations are that the girls all compete, give their very best effort on the court and exhibit sportsmanship,” he said.

Biggest challenges:

With so many underclassmen, McCaffrey is focused on “developing a culture” where the athletes have confidence in themselves, each other and the coach.

“Most of our players are relatively new to tennis and haven’t competed much,” he said. “I would like to change that where they learn to excel on the court and play with confidence and are a team.”

Returners to watch:

• Jona Wagner, Senior — Loan senior, is No. 1 singles player with a consistent baseline game.

• Kianna Rem, Sophomore — Tenacious fighter with huge topspin will be No. 2 singles.

• Ashley Pettit, Junior — Natural athlete with a strong volley game.

Newcomers:

• Lane Lindblom, Sophomore — Solid mental approach to the game.

• Sierra Stultz, Freshman — New to the sport but already has a big serve.

Kentwood

Goals and expectations:

After a 7-3 finish in 2013 that was good enough for third in the North division, head coach Ingrid Bakke said the goals are simple: improve from beginning to end, compete well and win a league title.

“We set (the goals) high but obtainable,” she said.

Biggest challenges:

Bakke said staying healthy all year can be a challenge, but will be needed in order to compete with top teams Kentridge and Mt. Rainier.

“Making it through those two teams is always really tough,” Bakke said.

Returners to watch:

• Megan Charlton, Senior – Named a first alternate to state in 2013 after a 10th place finish in district doubles.

• Kathryn Araki, Sophomore — Won one round in 2013 singles SPSL tournament.

Newcomers:

• Audry Snider, Junior — Learning to combine her power with consistency.

• Kristine Lee, Senior  — Co-captain and leader on-and-off the court.

 

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