The Archbishop Murphy boys tennis team is facing several challenges as they seek to start a rich tennis tradition at Archbishop Murphy High School.
There are dilemmas such as the players’ inexperience and competition with other sports for attention.
And then there’s rush hour.
The Wildcats have a group of 21 players — many of which had never picked up a tennis racket before their first practice — that are fighting traffic on their way to their “home” courts, at Scriber Lake High School at the old Woodway High campus, five days a week as they try to improve their game and get the inaugural season of the boys tennis team off to a good start.
“That just speaks to how great these guys are,” said Wildcats head coach Tyler McLaughlin. “Some of these kids live in north Everett and they’re coming all the way down to Edmonds — at 4:30, after a long day of school — and working hard.”
McLaughlin, who last coached tennis while living in Nevada, has spent that past two years at Archbishop Murphy, where teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History and is the Dean of Students. He held an informational meeting last spring to gauge the level of interest in starting a tennis team. About 20 students came to the meeting, and the Wildcats now have 21 kids on the court when everyone arrives to practice.
And each one of those players is at a different skill level.
“We have a broad spectrum of talent here,” McLaughlin said. “We have a handful of kids who have played (competitively before) and were very interested in starting a team.”
There were logistical issues to figure out, most importantly, where were the Wildcats going to play? In July, about a month before the season was about to start, they secured the old Woodway High School courts. The Edmonds-Woodway junior varsity team practices there after school, making the courts unavailable to Archbishop Murphy until about 4:30.
“It’s a long commute to get here, but it’s worth it,” said sophomore Priever Pretorius. “It’s the first year of (boys) tennis at our school and we’re committed to it.”
The tennis team is starting to get some buzz around campus. It has used the hashtag “#MoreTennisTennis” on Twitter to raise awareness around Archbishop Murphy for its new team. Although the tennis players are starting to garner some attention at school, the Wildcats don’t think there are any immediate plans to build courts on the Archbishop Murphy campus.
“Just today I had four people say, ‘Hey we want to come to your first match. Where is it at?’” said senior captain Quinn Stanley. “It feels good to be able to be on the team that’s kind of popular right now and competing with football for popularity at our school.”
Stanley is one of the rare seniors on the Wildcats’ squad. McLaughlin estimates there are three seniors on the Archbishop Murphy team, which will open its season Sept. 18 at Coupeville. Stanley, who played tennis his freshman year at Mariner High School, is one of McLaughlin’s few players with tennis experience.
“It’s good to come out here and be able to play,” Stanley said. “I’m having fun my first year (here).”
A couple other players have been on the court before. Sophomores Houston Schmutz and Ryan Castillo have both played in USTA junior competitions before.
“I played freshman football last year, but I’ve been playing tennis for 10 years so I was pretty excited that we got a team,” said Schmutz.
“We’ll lean on them a little bit,” McLaughlin said.
Junior Bryan Lucas is one of those players who is just starting his tennis career. Lucas plays doubles with Ben Thacker. Together, the duo are competing to be the No. 2 or 3 doubles team for Archbishop Murphy.
“I had nothing better to do,” Lucas said with a smile. “This is my first time playing tennis. I’ve been playing for 10 days. We’re not doing too bad. Not trying to brag or anything.”
Lucas said he’s got a lot of work to do on the court.
On all aspects of his game.
“It’s a tough game. Just getting the swing down and stuff,” Lucas said. “The drive out here’s not too great either. I don’t like that. It takes an hour to get home. But tennis is fun so it’s worth it.”
McLaughlin hopes the team continues to improve every day. Along with practices the Wildcats will play six games — three league matches against Coupeville, two against South Whidbey and a nonleague contest against University Prep.
The team knows it has high expectations just being associated with Archbishop Murphy.
“I think we’re members of a school that’s a high-achieving athletic school, so we want to try and meet those standards but to say that we have any specific expectations,” McLaughlin said. “I think it’s just to compete, have constant improvement and see where that gets us. It is literally the great unknown for us.”