The Powell High School tennis teams began practice Monday, and the season is shaping up to be an exciting one, with plenty of experience returning on both the boys’ and girls’ …
The Powell High School tennis teams began practice Monday, and the season is shaping up to be an exciting one, with plenty of experience returning on both the boys’ and girls’ teams.
“We just have a ton of kids coming back, a lot of familiar faces, especially on the boys side. Pretty much the entire varsity squad is back for more,” said PHS head coach Joe Asay. “And even on the girls’ side, though the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots were filled by seniors last year, the girls coming back are really competitive and will fill those spots well.”
With 40 kids reporting for the first day of practice Monday, Asay said the teams have already started playing matches to determine who will represent the varsity in Monday’s season (and home) opener against Green River. Though it might be tempting to pencil players in at certain spots, Asay said all positions are up for grabs.
“The kids are the ones that determine their spots by getting out and playing matches against each other,” Asay said. “So we’re off and running.”
The Lady Panthers have vacancies at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions, with Elise North and Sierra Sanders lost to graduation; the No. 1 doubles team also lost a senior in Shayla Shoopman. Coach Asay said he expects strong competition for those open spots between senior Sloane Asay and junior Sophe Morrow. Sloane Asay finished last season as part of the No. 1 doubles team, while Morrow played No. 2 doubles, along with Ashley Dunkerley. Dunkerley, a junior, also returns with varsity experience and is “playing really good tennis,” according to coach Asay.
“Sloane has a lot of varsity experience and she enjoys playing the game,” he said. “She plays tournaments in the summer, so that’s a good thing. Sophe Morrow has been out hitting quite a bit, taking advantage of the UW tennis camp at the beginning of the summer. She has a lot of varsity experience as well.”
Other Lady Panthers who will vie for varsity time are senior left-hander Hailee Paul and junior Sami Cole, who finished last season as the No. 3 doubles team.
“Hailee has had some good varsity experience, so I’m excited to see what she’ll do this season,” coach Asay said. “Sami Cole was varsity last year as a sophomore, and it was her first time playing tennis. It will be fun to see how that will continue to go for her.”
Also in the mix will be sophomore Kaili Wisniewski, who shined on the JV squad last season. Coach Asay said Wisniewski “is a great athlete,” who he hopes will compete for a varsity spot this year.
The Panthers may be the team to beat in the west in terms of experience, with No. 2 doubles player Aidan Hunt the only casualty of graduation.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to have a good, strong men’s varsity team,” coach Asay said. “You want that depth, and we had some freshman kids that were playing in the No. 3 doubles spot last year [Logan Brown and Aiden Chandler], so it’s pretty neat for them to come in as sophomores with varsity experience. That’s good stuff to see.”
Leading the charge will be seniors Jesse Brown and Dylan Preator; Preator is the defending state champion at No. 2 singles, while Brown was fifth at last year’s state tournament in No. 1 singles. Last year’s No. 1 doubles team of Aidan Jacobsen and Grant Dillivan will also compete for the top spots on the varsity.
“Jesse [Brown] has really been a strong dominant player through his entire high school career. He brings a lot to the table,” coach Asay said. “Dylan [Preator] just had a great season last year, so that’s the kicker for these guys as far as expectations — these guys have to actually get out and compete for that top spot. It’s Jesse’s to lose, but he does have to defend that position against his teammates.”
Another player to keep an eye on is senior Jay Cox, who finished last season as part of the No. 2 doubles team. It was Cox’s first year in competitive tennis, and coach Asay is excited to see what Cox is capable of this year.
“... As evidenced by the spring track season, that kid’s a bit of an athlete,” the coach said. “This [tennis] seems to be one of the things he’s enjoying; he’s been taking some time this summer to work on his game, get some one-on-one help. He played in a couple of tournaments, so it’s kind of fun to see what that looks like.”
The sophomore tandem of Brown and Chandler, a welcome surprise at No. 3 doubles last season, will have to hold off fellow sophomores who were “nipping at their heels last season,” according to the coach.
“There will be some good chances for all of those sophomores to compete well,” he said. “Ethan Bartholomew has been working hard all summer, playing in some tournaments and competing. It will be fun to see what that looks like, for sure.”