At many schools, it would be considered a strong turnout for track and field.
But at the state’s largest high school, South Kitsap girls tennis coach Todd Olson had 87 girls come out for his team Monday.
Olson’s only explanation for the turnout compared with the boys team in the fall, which usually features about 25 players, is the presence of football. He also said the girls program is buoyed by past success.
Olson also believes those interested in tennis noticed some successful individuals within the program, such as Stephanie Davison, who won a pair of state championships for the Wolves and now is a sophomore at the University of Texas. She was selected to Big 12’s singles team last season.
While it seems unlikely South will feature another state champion this year, or even a league title in singles — Gig Harbor’s Christy Sipes was the state runner-up in singles last year as a freshman — Olson likes the makeup of his team. Key returning players include seniors Casey Armstrong, Emily Sanford and Leah Sedlacek, junior Emily Hulscher and sophomore Chloe Helms. Armstrong rotated as the Wolves’ Nos. 1-2 singles player in 2007, while Helms and Hulscher were the top doubles team.
Olson said the competition is “still pretty wide open,” and he expects plenty of it. He doesn’t believe in cuts so every player who wants to compete will make the team. That doesn’t mean everyone will play, though. Narrows League teams feature two singles spots and three doubles teams. That’s eight players, but Olson said he will allow about half the team to travel, which he believes will breed competition up to South’s opener at 3:30 p.m. March 14 against Foss.
“It definitely helps the team with the large number,” he said. “Someone always is competing for your spot.”
Despite her position on the team last year, Helms said she won’t take anything for granted.
“With so many girls, you want to make sure you get noticed and get one of those varsity spots,” she said.
“We want to work as hard as we can, have coach approve of us and work on our game.”
As competitive as those spots are, Helms and others know it won’t be any easier during league season — and beyond. Besides Sipes and Gig Harbor, Bellarmine Prep regularly wins state championships and Central Kitsap also has fielded strong teams in the past.
Olson said he believes his team will be ready. He noted that several of his players ran the team’s summer camp for local youths and have a strong understanding of the game. Helms said that chemistry shows up on the court.
“I think our strength is how well we work together as a doubles team,” she said.
For now, Olson will wait to see who emerges in those spots.
SOUTH KITSAP TENNIS SCHEDULE (all matches schedule for 3:30 p.m.)
March 14 Foss
March 20 Bellarmine Prep
March 25 at Olympia
March 27 at Mount Tahoma
April 8 at Gig Harbor
April 15 at Central Kitsap
April 17 Wilson
April 22 at Stadium
April 24 North Kitsap
April 29 Lincoln