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KSS ready to flex muscles
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, theyre 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 states premier tennis competition for the first time.
Thats so cool, Noster said. Especially our senior year. I was thinking, Thatd be nice, but...
That but... has been something lingering in the minds of Klahowya athletes over the years. But with the schools ongoing improvement and success across sports, the current batch of state-bound Eagles said its nice to be part of that process.
It feels good because Klahowyas not normally known for sports, Wilson said. Its been changing though.
At last weekends 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.
Theyre more evenly matched than I thought, Coach Bruce Pemberton said, citing Hunters league win. Then at districts, it was the complete opposite. As far as the type of players they are, theyre 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. Thats what Katie does for me. Shes kind of like the fire and Im the ice. Its an opposite combination but its 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 didnt 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, Ive always said tennis is a thinking-persons varsity sport, he said. And you dont 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, theyll 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 Blaines Veronica Rooney. Wilson draws Pullmans 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 Bellinghams Molly Beaumont and Mandy Hatch, last years 2A state champs, wait on the other side of the bracket.
But no matter what happens its an experience each said theyre ready for.
Im so happy, Noster said. I cant believe this is the first girls group going. And all of us are seniors. Its so cool.
Its really fun, Hunter added. Weve been playing since our freshman year, Jessica since she was a sophomore. We all go to school together, we all know each other. Its 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).
Weve never gone this far before, Wilson said. And Ive never gone before in any sport Ive played. For me, I was just excited to go to districts. Id never been there before. Then it was, Oh my gosh, Im going to state!
With a group of Eagles flocking to the tournament, each said theyre excited to have some teammates making the trip to Seattle with them.
Im just so excited to step on the courts, Noster said. Ive been waiting four years. And itll be cool to watch my teammates.
And its 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 hasnt quite sunk in.
To me, its another tournament, she said. It doesnt feel like state (yet). Once we get there, itll probably feel like state.
With all four being seniors, theyre hoping the younger Eagles in the program are taking note of what it takes to reach state.
I hope the younger kids will see weve worked hard in the offseason and know you have to practice after the season to get here, Hunter said, citing the teams increased number of club players. Its what weve been doing.
It also leaves a nice mark, Noster added. Especially for Klahowya tennis. Its how you make it.
Thats a message Pemberton believes the team will hear loud and clear.
They look for opportunities, he said of the state-bound group. And theyre 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, Nosters not taking any chances.
Im planning to buy the shirt, she said. Ive been waiting three years.