Sports

KSS ready to flex muscles

From left, Klahowya’s Shelby Hunter, Misty Noster, Jessica Wilson and Katie Stephens (not pictured) take a minute to show their strength prior to state. - Aaron Managhan/staff photo
From left, Klahowya’s Shelby Hunter, Misty Noster, Jessica Wilson and Katie Stephens (not pictured) take a minute to show their strength prior to state.
— image credit: Aaron Managhan/staff photo

When the ball bounced for the final time, four members of the Klahowya girls tennis team could hardly believe it. For the first time in school history, they’re going to state.

Singles players Shelby Hunter and Jessica Wilson and doubles combo Misty Noster and Katie Stephens not only advanced to state, they cruised into it, winning the 2A West Central District III title last weekend in advancing to the state’s premier tennis competition for the first time.

“That’s so cool,” Noster said. “Especially our senior year. I was thinking, ‘That’d be nice, but...’”

That ‘but...’ has been something lingering in the minds of Klahowya athletes over the years. But with the school’s ongoing improvement and success across sports, the current batch of state-bound Eagles said it’s nice to be part of that process.

“It feels good because Klahowya’s not normally known for sports,” Wilson said. “It’s been changing though.”

At last weekend’s district tournament, which Klahowya won with 28 points, more than double the 13 posted by second-place Washington, Wilson topped teammate Hunter 6-1, 6-0 in the singles championship in a reversal of their sub-district finals match a week prior, where Hunter won in straight sets.

“They’re more evenly matched than I thought,” Coach Bruce Pemberton said, citing Hunter’s league win. “Then at districts, it was the complete opposite. As far as the type of players they are, they’re very different.”

On the doubles side, Noster and Stephens also won the district crown, another repeat from subs, topping a Fife tandem 7-6, 7-6 for the win. In the second set, Noster remembers trailing 5-2 and getting flustered.

“We were down 2-5 and we won the set,” Noster said. “That’s what Katie does for me. She’s kind of like the fire and I’m the ice. It’s an opposite combination but it’s good.”

It all added up to a very pleasant surprise for Pemberton.

“I had no expectations whatsoever,” he said heading into districts. “I knew they were good. I didn’t know they were that good. It boggles the mind, it really does. The only (area 2A) school that usually does that is Sequim.”

Pemberton called his doubles duo one of the “smarter” doubles combos around.

“In the past, I’ve always said tennis is a thinking-person’s varsity sport,” he said. “And you don’t get smarter than Noster and Stephens. They play very well.”

Now, the foursome will face their toughest tennis challenge yet. But with such strong showings, they’ll each have favorable draws heading into the 2A WIAA State Girls Tennis Championships, which began yesterday and continues today at Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle.

In her opening-round singles match, Hunter will battle Blaine’s Veronica Rooney. Wilson draws Pullman’s Ashley Beitz. But just opposite her on the

bracket is defending 2A state singles champ Lindsay Newman of South Whidbey.

In their doubles opener, Noster and Stephens will battle Roni Hewett and Lena Miraglio of Clarkston. That could lead to a tough second-round match as Bellingham’s Molly Beaumont and Mandy Hatch, last year’s 2A state champs, wait on the other side of the bracket.

But no matter what happens it’s an experience each said they’re ready for.

“I’m so happy,” Noster said. “I can’t believe this is the first girls group going. And all of us are seniors. It’s so cool.”

“It’s really fun,” Hunter added. “We’ve been playing since our freshman year, Jessica since she was a sophomore. We all go to school together, we all know each other. It’s exciting to go with some friends.”

For Wilson, the moment is even more gratifying as it marks her first state experience in any sport (Wilson plays volleyball as well).

“We’ve never gone this far before,” Wilson said. “And I’ve never gone before in any sport I’ve played. For me, I was just excited to go to districts. I’d never been there before. Then it was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to state!’”

With a group of Eagles flocking to the tournament, each said they’re excited to have some teammates making the trip to Seattle with them.

“I’m just so excited to step on the courts,” Noster said. “I’ve been waiting four years. And it’ll be cool to watch my teammates.”

“And it’s not just coach only watching us,” Hunter added. “We can relax a little bit and watch each other play.”

But for Hunter, the whole allure of state still hasn’t quite sunk in.

“To me, it’s another tournament,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like state (yet). Once we get there, it’ll probably feel like state.”

With all four being seniors, they’re hoping the younger Eagles in the program are taking note of what it takes to reach state.

“I hope the younger kids will see we’ve worked hard in the offseason and know you have to practice after the season to get here,” Hunter said, citing the team’s increased number of club players. “It’s what we’ve been doing.”

“It also leaves a nice mark,” Noster added. “Especially for Klahowya tennis. It’s how you make it.”

That’s a message Pemberton believes the team will hear loud and clear.

“They look for opportunities,” he said of the state-bound group. “And they’re all patient. And they wanted it. That was the big thing.”

And where in past trips with different teams Pemberton has encouraged the girls to enjoy the time and buy the commemorative shirt, he thinks this crew can take it a step farther.

“All they do is get better every time they come to practice,” he said.

Still, Noster’s not taking any chances.

“I’m planning to buy the shirt,” she said. “I’ve been waiting three years.”

EMAIL NEWSLETTERS

Latest news, top stories, and community events,
delivered to your inbox.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 26 edition online now. Browse the archives.