Only three Falcons return having played varsity for South Whidbey girls tennis the past season, leaving a large void for new players to fill.
Of the returning Falcons, two narrowly missed their chance to reach the state 1A tournament: Isla Dubendorf and Bayley Gochanour. The senior-sophomore tandem combined after spending much of the season playing singles and proved a formidable doubles unit.
This year, the Falcons hope an offseason spent training together and individually will result in getting over the regional hump together and into the state tournament.
“Last year in the tri-districts I was a little intimidated,” Dubendorf said.
The rest of the team will be sorting out who takes over the majority of the varsity roster. It’ll be trial by fire in the first week as South Whidbey plays four matches in five days.
“In the beginning we need to get experience under our belts,” said Falcon head coach Karyle Kramer.
“Let the cream rise,” she added.
Only five schools from the Cascade Conference have girls tennis, leaving South Whidbey with a ripe opportunity to snag a league title. The Falcons will battle King’s as the top 1A team, and will face Archbishop Murphy, Granite Falls and Lakewood in league play. Much of South Whidbey’s schedule is filled with teams from District 1, including Bellingham, Anacortes and Bear Creek.
Home advantage will play a big part in South Whidbey’s season. The majority of South Whidbey’s matches (nine of 14) are scheduled at the Langley high school campus, which has eight courts.
Kramer said that, while the program has grown accustomed to winning, she and assistant coaches Jennifer Gochanour and Rachel Clements are dedicated to seeing player improvement in the season.
The program has more than 30 girls signed up, with a dozen juniors filling the ranks. Only a handful of freshmen registered this season, one of the smaller incoming classes since Kramer took over in 2012.
“They’re going to get a ton of attention,” Kramer said.
“It’s a much smaller team, but they’re competitive girls,” added sophomore Bayley Gochanour.