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Low numbers dont equal low spirits for Eagles
Klahowya boys and girls tennis coach Bruce Pemberton is glad to see the sun shining. After a girls tennis season plagued again by rainouts, Pemberton was basking in the sunlight, even if summers drawing to a close.
Its nice, he said. I wish we had this kind of weather during the girls season. The weather is warm, the guys are breaking a sweat.
With just 12 players out this year, Pembertons Eagles are small as usual. And with the Olympic League expanding from three singles and two doubles to three singles and four doubles, Pemberton said his squad expects to concede some individual matches. But with the talent he has on the team, hes convinced that doesnt necessarily mean less team wins.
We may have to forfeit the No. 4 doubles, Pemberton said. We just dont have the bodies. But that doesnt mean we cant win.
With top returner Chris Zumdieck, a state qualifier last year, deciding to try out football, Pemberton will be relying on a mix of first-year players and returners, all with experience, to make the difference.
First-year player Clark Hurd, filling the No. 1 spot, is one Pemberton expects to help lead the way.
Hes got a very nice swing, he said. Its probably almost the nicest swing Ive seen on a kid in a long time. Hes had lessons, but he never played before. Hes a good thinking athlete.
Hurd personifies the Eagles, a team of athletes that use their skills to make up for tennis technique.
Theyre athletic, Pemberton said of the group. Theyre like (2006 Klahowya grad) Morgan Gray. This is a very athletic team. Theyre all multi-sport athletes.
Austin Carlson will be in his fourth year with Klahowya, although his second with varsity. Most of the players are two-year Eagles. Carlson will likely team up with Phillip Alessi, whose game has progressed night and day from last year. Pemberton said Alessi took lessons since last year, and its shown.
He did it, Pemberton said. Basically what it did is he made varsity.
Kurtis Pitcher will be a nice left-handed option for Klahowya as well, and Brandon Smith-Wheeler also will play a key role. Jeff Jaeckel will be the No. 2 singles player.
Hes very athletic, Pemberton said of Jaeckel. Were working on his ground strokes so he can rely on them a little more under pressure.
As for the rest of the doubles, Pemberton said its still too early to see how those teams will shape up. And with a new format, he said they may not be able to fill the final every time.
We havent filled out the lower end of doubles, Pemberton said. We had the bodies last year. But part of the reason (the league expanded the format) is to add a little more legitimacy to the league. And it gets more kids out there.
Getting more kids out is something Pemberton is hopeful can still happen this season. he said he plans to hang flyers once school starts to entice newer players to turn out for the team.
I wish there was more of them, but we still might pick up some guys, he said.
But perhaps the biggest addition to the Eagles boys team this year is volunteer assistant coach Rick Ellis, who also was the personal coach for Klahowya girls player Shelby Hunter.
Its nice to have that resource, Pemberton said. Hes an expert at stroke diagnosis. He knows exactly whats happening when you hit a ball wrong.
Overall, Pemberton said theres one way he can tell how far along this years group already is.
Usually I start the season being able to beat them, he said. Already I can only beat half.
Klahoywa opens the season by hosting Central Kitsap at 4 p.m. Thursday.