Falcon team is young, but eager to win

Falcon Reilly O
Falcon Reilly O'Sullivan attempts to keep eyes on the prize while returning a serve during practice last week.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

Falcon coach Tom Kramer has been down this road before.

“We have an inexperienced group of girls who will only get better on the field of battle as the season progresses,” he said.

But junior varsity coach Nancy Ricketts was pleased to see a new attitude during the first practice on March 1 when 26 aspiring Lindsay Davenports and Maria Sharapovas showed up.

“Granted we’re a young team, but I’m impressed — they’re eager, hungry and aggressive on the court and that’s what Tom and

I want to see,” she said.

With the graduation of three-time state champion Lindsey Newman and the powerful doubles team of Victoria Comfort and Nicole Zalewski — not to mention Natalie Wheeler, Jenn Gemkow and Anna Weeks and four other seniors — Kramer said the present team has spent three years in the shadows, and now it’s time to show what they can do.

On the strength of Newman’s smashing victory in May and the Falcon doubles team of Comfort and Zalewski placing fifth, the South Whidbey High School girls tennis team also won the state 2A girls tennis title. The Falcons were named co-champions with Klahowya.

“It was a very good season,” said Kramer, the always-understated Falcon coach.

Realistically, by playing against some of the top-rated schools in the country, Kramer believes that several current Falcon players have the potential to peak just before districts.

Katie Holt, Shannon Craig and Julia Iversen were on varsity last year, and Newman’s freshman sister Haylie shows promise.

“Katie [Holt] and I work well together, but I think the coach still hasn’t decided where to place us yet,” Newman said. “I’m working on serving and being more aggressive at the net; the coach showed me a new grip and that’s working out.”

Because many Cascade Conference schools don’t sponsor tennis, the team plays against strong tennis schools from the Northwest Conference; Sehome, Mount Vernon and Burlington-Edison among them.

“All those schools have a number of talented girls coming back,” Kramer said. “It has always been one of the toughest districts in the state. The girls are going to have to play very well just to keep their heads above water.”

And as always, not to put too fine a point on it (though Kramer frequently does), experience matters.

Whatever the challenges he faces, he still likes teaching the game — he’s been coaching since 1978 — and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“When I tire of it, I’ll quit,” he said.

Before then, he’ll continue to acquaint his young charges with the finer points of the game.

“Tennis lets us focus on individual strengths and weaknesses, plus you learn not to depend on others quite as much,” Newman noted.

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