Mount Si tennis squad nailing its stroke with mid-season wins | Photo Gallery

  - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Tennis is not a mean sport. So says doubles player Amber Caudle, who took to the court with partner Emily Schwabe and was perfectly polite, even as the duo beat their Sammamish Totem opponents in two sets.

“You can play competitively and still be nice,” Caudle said afterward.

There’s certainly no reason for chips on shoulders this season, one of the best that Mount Si’s girls tennis squad has ever had.

The reason for that: Mount Si has a bigger turnout, and these girls are playing and practicing more often in the off-season, said coach Jim Gibowski.

“I encourage players to play more than one sport,” he said. “But it’s neat to have people that are playing more than just a month and a half. It’s showing—our girls are strong and focused.”

Doubles partners

All three of Mount Si’s doubles squads have found their rhythm.

Each duo says they play well together and understand each other’s game.

“We have different strengths,” said Caudle. “She plays backhand and I play forehand.”

Schwabe and Caudle will probably become Mount Si’s main doubles squad in 2015, when the team enters 4A competition.

“I love tennis so much,” Caudle said. “I like getting better, and trying to improve the strokes. My main focus is my serve. It’s definitely coming along, and looks like a real tennis serve.”

Mount Si’s number-two duo is fairly new this year. But their bond is tight.

“We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses,” said Alaina Kinghorn.

“We have good communication on the floor,” added Hannah Still. “We can kind of tell what the other person is going to do before they do it. We can help them out by getting into the right position.”

Both partners practice together and take lessons as a team.

For them, tennis is shaping up to be a lifetime enjoyment. And there’s also the competition factor.

“We love to win,” said Still.

Olivia Howland started playing in her freshman year. It was daunting, because the sport was new. Many other girls had tried out.

“I walked into the gym, thinking, ‘How am I ever going to make this team?’”

Flash forward four years, and she’s part of the top duo.

She and number-one doubles partner Peyton McCulley are good friends on and off the court, and experienced seniors.

“We definitely go off of each other,” Howland said. “She’s a lefty, I’m a righty—that complements each other.”

McCulley’s sinistral secret weapon helps in their success.

“You’re always serving to my forehand or her forehand,” McCulley said. “We’ve played with each other for a while now. We know what we’re doing.”

The number one duo wants to improve their record, and try to beat tennis powerhouse and 3A rival Mercer Island.

“We both think strategy,” McCulley said. “For us, instead of power, we think about placement…. where to hit it at what time.”

“We’re good at keeping each other focused,” Howland said. “We’re definitely comfortable playing together.” For her, it’ll be hard when the season ends, saying goodbye to friends she’s just met. She hopes to set an example of leadership.

Singles victory

A tired sophomore Rachel Walker battled through some interminable rallies, or sequences of shots within a point, with Sammamish’s Tina Live, winning 7-5, 6-3, after nearly two hours of play last Friday, April 18.

“I’m really tired, but it was very worth it,” she said. “Those are the longest rallies I’ve had all year.”

She and Live were very close in ability.

“You have to have endurance to go that long,” Walker said. “It’s whoever can tough it out the most.”

Walker experienced frustrating moments during games, but you wouldn’t think it to look at her. She appears cool and collected, and that’s by design.

“Once you see the other player frustrated, you get more confidence,” she says. This is Walker’s fourth year playing competitive tennis, second at Mount Si High School. She loves the complexity of tennis, and is deep into the mental game.

“You really get to focus,” she said. “I try to think one point and one shot at a time. You have to think about the entire game, the entire set.”

Walker learned the game as a young girl, but has only played competitively for a few years. She’s also a Mount Si cheerleader, and will balance the two sports this spring.

Walker started the season at number-two, then quickly moved up. “I like being number one,” she says. “But at the same time, when you’re number one, you play the state champions, the best of the best, which is pretty tough.” Walker admits she’s a little envious of teammates who don’t always get the same challenge.

“But someone has to play number one!”

The girls blanked Sammamish last Friday, 7-0. Along with Walker’s win, number-two singles player Kerry Pemberton beat the Totems’ Ha Nguyen, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. At number-three singles, freshman Regan Baltasar won over Jessica Sou, 7-6, 6-2. At number four, Hannah Jones beat Donna Ganbaatar, 6-2, 6-2.

Mount Si’s number-one doubles team of McCulley and Howland bested Sammamish’s Danielle McCormack and Jama Gantulga, 6-3, 6-3.  At number-two doubles, the Kinghorn and Still beat Brenda Li and Taryn Okamoto in two quick sets, 6-0, 6-0. At number-three doubles, Caudle and Schwabe won out over the Totems’ Jennifer Chi and Olivia Tremblay, 6-2, 6-2.

• The Mount Si girls tennis team hosts Mercer Island, 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 29.

Rachel Walker, no. 1 singles player

Kerry Pemberton, no. 2 singles player for Mt Si.

Regan Baltazar, no. 3 singles

Hannah Jones, no. 4 singles

Olivia Howland, no. 1 doubles, serves

Peyton McCulley, no. 1 doubles

Peyton McCulley's left-handed forearm attack

Hannah Still, no. 2 doubles

Alaina Kinghorn, no. 2 doubles

Amber Caudle and Emily Schwabe, no. 3 doubles duo

Amber Caudle


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