Girls’ tennis team steamrolls into league tournament

POULSBO — New challenges have meant new success for the North Kitsap girls’ tennis team.

POULSBO — New challenges have meant new success for the North Kitsap girls’ tennis team.

The team, in its first-ever year in the Narrows League, is sending a half-dozen competitors to league competition today at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. That’s more competitors than any other former Olympic League team.

Head coach Trish Olson said, “Qualifying for the league tournament is comparable to qualifying for districts last year; it’s that hard.”

“I’m proud of them,” she added. “It speaks for their talent.”

The Vikings qualified Meagan Grandall and Brita Nelson in singles (Nelson is seeded #6 in the league) and the doubles teams of Jolene Cari/Abby Tillotson and Molly Buckner/Brie Donnally.

To qualify for the tournament, Nelson was seeded, Grandall drew a tie for preliminary matches, Cari and Tillotson downed Kelley Droll and Gayle Michelson from Olympia 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, and Buckner and Donnally defeated Kristie Fisher and Jessica Wilzcek from Bellarmine Prep 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) in a loser-out match last week.

“That one was a huge upset,” Olson said of the Buckner and Donnally’s defeat of the highly-ranked Bellarmine Prep duo. “It was unbelievable.”

The team’s overall record is 8-4, with two matches lost to rainouts.

Olson was proud of the young team’s effort this year.

“They’re solid. They’re there. They work,” she said.

At the team’s awards dinner, Nelson was named “most inspirational,” and Erin Gallagher was “most improved.”

When asked about the double-elimination league tournament, all players were excited to test themselves against the new, more difficult competition of the Narrows League.

Tillotson said, “It’s going to be a challenge. There’s going to be a lot of competition that wasn’t there last year.”

Nelson, who has played on the tennis team for four years, said, “It’s been more challenging this year than the last three years. There’s been more competition. But it’s been fun and exciting.”

Nelson said, “I definitely want to go on to districts. And going to state would be fun.”

While Nelson is the most experienced tennis player on the team, many of them are young and inexperienced, and have let their hard work and athletic talent carry them to success.

Jolene Cari, in only her second year of experience, said her power and placement have improved over this year.

“Last year,” she recalled with a smile, “I just tried to get it over the net.”

The league tournament will be held today, tomorrow and Friday at UPS. It is a double-elimination tournament. There are eight singles players and eight doubles teams, and the top seven will move on to districts.