Falcon tennis coach Tom Kramer never lets an interview interfere with teaching.
“Shorten the swing! Finish higher!” he shouts to his charges.
As the girls continued to coax more life out of their small yellow spheres, Kramer reflected on 30 years at the helm of the boys and girls tennis teams at South Whidbey High School.
“I’m still here,” he said.
So much for that.
Because many Cascade Conference schools don’t sponsor tennis, the team plays against powerhouse 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.”
Last year, Lindsey Newman surpassed all her peers and took the
2A championship in Yakima. But can she do it again?
“Frankly, it will be hard for her to repeat,” Kramer said. “Climbing a mountain is easier than staying on top. Obviously, she has the best chance to return.”
Even so, Kramer said the team will be a solid contender if only four or five other players step up and make a difference.
Newman is first single player and Natalie Wheeler will be second.
“In singles there can be no weaknesses and each girl needs to be mentally tough,” Kramer said.
Not an easy task, Wheeler said.
“I had a good year although I found that not all the matches were challenging,” she admitted. “My biggest problem was getting nervous and not being confident.”
She’s been working on her game during the off-season, both the physical and mental aspect.
“I’m more confident charging the net than before, concentrating on serves and volley strokes,” Wheeler said.
“Above all, I’m learning to play the ball, not the opponent. I can’t let myself worry about the other guy.”
Kramer said Wheeler and the other team members can utilize all their strengths if they work at it.
“Not playing hard and focused is a waste of a fine day,” he said.
The first doubles partners will be Victoria Comfort and Natalie Zalewski, while Noelle Metz and a yet-to-be-named player will take the second slot.
“In doubles, they need to complement each other,” Kramer explained. “If neither can serve, they can get in trouble. Finding the right balance, who goes where and when, is sort of what Natalie [assistant Ricketts] and I do. Among other things.”
Tennis fans might make note that at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, the girls will host Anacortes at the high school courts.