When 37 girls fill a gym, playing tennis on miniature courts, the program’s growth under Karyle Kramer is undeniable.
Half of the team is comprised of freshmen. That’s 18 girls, who, if they stick with the team for four years, could help return South Whidbey girls tennis to the days of yore when Kramer herself was a state title winner.
Her goals for the team are far from the win-loss column. Kramer, who also coaches youth tennis on South Whidbey in summer, desires progress in her players. Whether four-year varsity letter winners or freshmen who pick up a racquet for the first time, by season’s end, Kramer said she should see improvement.
“Ultimately the clear goal is to have improvement all the way around: for girls to understand strategy and have confidence on the court and off the court,” Kramer said.
Her top player, senior Hayley Newman, has no lack of esteem on the court. Newman returns as South Whidbey’s top singles player and only state competitor. Despite having a state pedigree in name — her sister Lindsey and brother Riley both claimed state tennis titles — the school was dropped to the 1A classification and the route to the state tournament is uncharted.
“It’s been my dream to get a state title already, I’m kind of behind compared to everyone else in my family,” Newman said.
“I need to get a state title this year. It’ll be the end of me if I don’t.”
Worse than that, the main competitor to her spot as the No. 1 singles player is her sister. Carlie Newman, a sophomore, is at Hayley’s heels. In single sets they’ve played in practices, Hayley remained victorious, but the scores were closer than she’d like.
“I hate to admit that to the island, but she’s good,” Newman said.
“My worst fear is losing to her and she goes to state.”
A handful of other players return to the varsity roster, like juniors Amelia Weeks and Tess Radisch, who made an early exit from the District 1 tournament. Though they were both doubles players, they did not play together last season. Now, it appears they may unite as the top doubles team. Also in the mix is senior Hannah Calderwood, who did not turn out for tennis the past three seasons.
“Hopefully I’ll find a good partner that works well with me,” Weeks said.
With a young team, the postseason is uncertain. Kramer declined to peg the squad to a winning record because of the variables of the first 1A season.