Sports

2A Oly League ripe for Eagles’ picking

Despite an injury to her knee, Klahowya’s Jessica Wilson serves the ball at a recent match. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Despite an injury to her knee, Klahowya’s Jessica Wilson serves the ball at a recent match.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

It’s not often a coach can feel confident about his team’s chances of winning the league when that league also houses the defending state champs.

But that’s the case for Klahowya girls tennis coach Bruce Pemberton.

Pemberton said that while Sequim is returning as the defending 2A state girls tennis champs, they lost most of that team to graduation. Graduation also hit North Mason hard, leaving the doors wide open for the Eagles.

“The 2A league this year, it’s poised. This is Klahowya’s step-up year,” Pemberton said. “They’re all good. But Sequim is beatable. North Mason is beatable.”

And that has his team feeling confident, despite a rough start to the 2008 season.

“My focus is trying to get the 2A schools that we meet at subdistricts,” he said. “I know we’ve got the bodies.”

With 35 girls out, including eight seniors, Pemberton said his team is stacked in singles play, with Jessica Wilson and Shelby Hunter returning in the No. 1 and 2 roles, respectively. Lauren Fuller also is back in the No. 3 spot.

“She’s a good athlete and student,” Pemberton said of Wilson. “She gets to everything and she’s got the best serve on the team.”

But Hunter too is strong in different aspects of the game.

“She’s probably going to challenge again,” Pemberton said. “I’m sure she wants her No. 1 singles spot back.”

While both are solid players, Wilson tends to maintain composure better in tough situations, he said.

“She’s very pressed about her game,” he said of Hunter, who he’s working with on in-game composure. “She gets a little frustrated if she gets behind.”

But neither has fallen behind often this season despite Klahowya’s 0-4 start. Even in matches the two have lost, they’ve remained competitive. Pemberton said more than anything, circumstance has contributed to Klahowya’s slow start in terms of wins and losses.

“I know we’re a lot better than our season record so far,” he said. “Kids go places, they do things, they get sick.”

For example, sisters Misty and Melody Noster spent time early in the season in the Amazon. Pemberton said his full varsity still hasn’t taken the court.

“It’s nice to have them back,” he said of the Nosters. “We’ve been playing mostly JVs. I’d love to have my real varsity playing. My real varsity hasn’t played yet.”

With six girls also playing club tennis, Pemberton said he’s beginning to see a transition within his program as players become more serious.

“That’s what it’s gonna take,” Pemberton said. “You have to be a little more serious about the game.”

Also helping the team this year is Rich Ellis, who’s working with the girls on technique. That’s freeing him up for his specialty.

“I’m the enforcer,” Pemberton said. “We work together really, really well. I’m really happy he’s here.”

On doubles, the No. 1 team is set with Katie Stephens and Misty Noster pairing up.

“They’re like bestest friends in the world,” Pemberton said facetiously. “They are classic fire and ice. Katie is pure fire and Misty is pure ice. That’s your classic doubles team.”

Afterwards, however, Pemberton said the team is still finding the top combos. But with rainouts, the team still has lots of time, he said.

Even with some uncertainty, Pemberton is excited about what he’s seen so far.

“They’ve got skill, they’ve got strength and they’ve got tennis-savvy,” he said. “It’s theirs to take this year.”

The Eagles traveled to Port Angeles Monday and hosted Olympic Tuesday but results were unavailable at press time. The Eagles host Sequim at 4 p.m. today.

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