For at least one week, the sun came out and tennis was played.
As the girls tennis season really got rolling this past week, I was able to see four teams in action and have come up with several story lines to look at as this season progresses.
So from my observations, conversation with coaches and results reported to The Columbian, here we go:
• For the first time in four years there will be someone other than Sammi Hampton who will finish atop the 4A Greater St. Helens League. Hampton graduated last spring and is now swinging her racket at Arizona State. Next up? Perhaps Hannah Gianan, a junior at Camas. Perhaps Amila Gogalija, a senior at Mountain View. Their only meeting of the regular season could come April 25 at Mountain View. Gianan does have a chance to win four state titles as she and Jen Lewis (who graduated last spring) won back-to-back 4A doubles titles.
• For the first time in three years there will also be a new singles champion in the 3A GSHL with the graduation of Prairie’s Akari Baba. So far the top contenders are Prairie senior Josie Sullivan and Columbia River freshman Faith Grisham if they stay singles players for the district tournament. But it’s early and other players can move into contention.
• Several coaches see Union as the team to beat in the 4A GSHL. Senior Sydney Wallace, who has been a state runner-up in doubles the past two years, and sophomore McKenzie Schreiner, who played with Wallace at state last year, are very strong players in singles or (obviously) doubles. I would think they would stay with doubles for state purposes, but the Titans are deep and have already shown strength with different combinations in doubles (Nicole Knudtson, Elysha Fun, Nina Antic) and a solid No. 2 or 3 singles player in Jamie Ding.
• The number of girls coming out for tennis are at an astronomical high. Skyview reported 70 players and we thought that was big. Union has a similar number. Then I talked with Mountain View and they had just over 100 come out. Keep in mind, Mountain View has just four courts, so playing time is at a premium. Still, can’t say that tennis isn’t a popular spring sport.
• Local players have made a solid dent in the United States Tennis Association Pacific Northwest Section junior rankings. These rankings are based on USTA tournament play outside of the high school season. As of March 17 in girls 18s, Gianan has a ranking of No. 7, Gogalija is No. 35, Schreiner is No. 42. In girls 16s, Knudtson is No. 66 and Grisham is No. 70.