POULSBO — As far as practices go, Wednesday’s was quite innovative.
That’s when the North Kitsap tennis team travelled by bus to Central Kitsap High School. Once there, they were introduced; they met their opponents; and they watched in frustration as enough rain fell to cancel the match.
Coach Trish Olson is looking on the bright side.
“We had a great practice run on meeting the other team and doing introductions,” she said with a laugh, frustrated that the young, talented Vikings have been kept off the court by weather.
The Vikings will probably have better luck this weekend, when they travel to Wenatchee for the Central Washington Invitational.
If Olson and her players can’t wait to hit the court, don’t blame them: “I’m very excited for this year and the future,” Olson said, referring to a team filled with young, athletic talent.
“Fifty percent (of the players) are new to high-school tennis,” Olson said, “but they’re athletic, determined, and very coachable.”
Much of the team is young, but there is returning talent as well. Brita Nelson returns after taking 13th at state last year in girls’ doubles (along with partner Leslie Miles). Three players who competed in the Olympic League tournament are back for this year, North Kitsap’s first in the Narrows League: Abby Tillotson, who competed in mixed doubles along with brother Tom, and doubles team Ellie Piper and Jolene Cari, which competed in girls’ doubles for North Kitsap.
Tillotson wants to make it further this year; her goal, she said at a recent practice, is to reach districts.
She said the all-girls team (last year’s team was mixed boys and girls) means more unity.
“It’s a lot funner, all girls,” Tillotson said. “We’re more together.”
Coach Olson said the team is also heavy with young talent, including Katie Oost, Emily Kishi, and Meagan Grandall.
The team also includes Erin Bernard, Molly Buckner, Natalie Curfman, Brie Donnally, Erin Gallagher, Cassandre Huschke, Kelly Joines, Katie Oost, Celena Taylor, Kathleen Teefy, and Jessica Uher.
Vic Nelson is assistant coach.
Not only are the players athletic, Olson said; they’re fun to coach, too.
“I’m so excited to coach them … it’s heaven,” she said.
Olson’s enthusiasm is mirrored by the players, even veterans like Ellie Piper, who is charging into her third year of tennis at North Kitsap.
“We have so many upcoming talent,” Piper said,. “And it’s good athletic talent.”
The team has 17 players. Olson said the goal this year is not to pump up win-loss records (not that she’ll turn down wins), but to concentrate on the players’ improvement.
“We’re not going to focus on win-loss record,” she said. “We’re just focusing on being a better player.”
Olson said, “I want them to understand that the game of tennis is constantly developing. It’s a lifelong process.”
That’s a message at least one player has heard.
Several players were recently asked what portion of their game they are working on this year.
Piper piped up.
“I’ll probably be working on my serve,” she said, “until I’m 60.”