SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: Girls tennis team plays for net gain

Jenny Saephan stretches for a baseline shot fired by Kylie Bozym during practice this week. Both players hope to qualify for the state tournament again this year. - Matt Johnson
Jenny Saephan stretches for a baseline shot fired by Kylie Bozym during practice this week. Both players hope to qualify for the state tournament again this year.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

It seems like every spring brings a surprise on the tennis courts at South Whidbey High School.

Two years ago, the Falcon girls won a state 2A championship practically under their coach's nose. Last year, a two seasoned doubles teams and an upstart freshman invaded the state tournament to take the runner-up trophy.

Wouldn't it be nice if the third year was also a charm.

Maybe, but it will take some extra attention. Once part of the powerful Wesco 3A tennis league, the Falcon girls got used to playing at a high level. This year, South Whidbey will not get that sort of competition, because their 3A opponents are now part of a 4A mega-league. After playing against the big school teams for the past two years -- in spite of the fact that South Whidbey went 2A in 1999 -- the Falcons will be matched against a mixture of 2A and 3A North Sound squads this year.

Falcon Coach Tom Kramer said he hopes teams like Anacortes, Coupeville and Friday Harbor have something to offer in the way of skilled players.

"I'm going to assume they have some talent and go from there," he said.

Even if they don't, the Falcons do. Back on the team this year are four state competitors, seven experienced senior players and a deep list of talent. Two of the girls, seniors Jenny Saephan and Kylie Bozym, were state doubles champions last year. Another senior, Paige Jolley, took fourth in doubles with partner and 2001 graduate Kaitlin King. Also at state was sophomore Jenny Newman, who will try to make her way back to the tournament to earn a placing this year.

For a rebuilding year, as Kramer labels this season, it's not a bad start.

"We definitely have some experience back," he said

While his state competitors and seniors will go a long way toward solidifying the varsity lineup, the team will need some help from the underclassmen. Kramer said several juniors and perhaps a few precocious sophomores will move in and out of varsity play, along with Class of 2002 members Jackie Gutzmer, Kelsey Simmons, Gena Felton and Molly Fox.

As a team that has the fundamentals of the game largely under control, the Falcons will be concentrating on the finer points of their game. Serving power and accuracy hurt the team through its regular season schedule and into the playoffs last year, as did mobility in some singles and double spots. The difference a year of growing and strengthening makes may well solve these troubles.

Concentration on goals will also be a factor in the team's success. Paige Jolley said she wants to surpass her season result from last year.

"We don't just want to go to state, we want to win," she said.

That emphasis on winning starts on Tuesday, when the Falcons host Burlington-Edison for the season opener. Play begins at 3:30 p.m.

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