Girls tennis season preview: 5 storylines to watch

Here are five storylines from the local prep girls tennis scene this spring:

1 There’s going to be new faces in new roles in Wesco 4A. Only four all-Wesco 4A players from 2017 — Jackson’s Kate Moon, Lake Stevens’ Emily Peterson, Mount Vernon’s Jessica Cooley and Kamiak’s Haley Gilbert — return this spring. “I think Emily is the one to beat this year. She got incredibly stronger last year,” said Jackson coach Judi Montgomery. “Kate is going to be one of the toughest singles players. Most (programs) will have new doubles teams.” Glacier Peak, Jackson and Lake Stevens finished on top of the conference last season, and Montgomery doesn’t see big changes this spring. “Depending on who’s in the lineup, based on whether the strongest kids are there or not, any of (the three) teams can beat the others,” she said.

2 Snohomish remains strong at the top of Wesco 3A North. The Panthers have a solid duo of singles players in Katri Shields and Tessa Rugg, who may team up for doubles in the postseason, and a doubles player with state tournament experience in Maddi VanAssche. “(Katri and Tessa) are each other’s foils,” said Snohomish coach Dick Jansen. “We’ve got some sophomores who worked hard in the offseason and will look to be part of the singles combinations. Maddi has a hold on a No. 1 doubles spot, and we’ve got some juniors who spent time on the junior varsity last year who’ve moved into consideration for No. 2 and No. 3 doubles. I feel good about our chances.” Everett has two top returning singles players in Abby Affholter and Melody Barnhart, and Arlington returns all-Wesco 3A North selection Layla Garduno-Cravioto. “Everett and Arlington would be my guess as to (the top Wesco 3A North challengers), but every team is getting better,” Jansen said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of good battles.”

3 Wesco 3A South discussion begins with Sasha Gaeth. There’s no doubt that Wesco 3A’s top player is Shorewood’s Gaeth, who finished second at last year’s 3A state tournament in singles as a sophomore. Shorecrest is loaded with returning all-conference selections, including singles players Anna Burke and Sophie Ivens and doubles player Bella Saunders. Edmonds-Woodway returns all of its core from a year ago — Olivia Olson, Hailey Rehnfeldt, Alexi Huffman, Nicole Ung and Leona Aklipi. “Oliva, Nicole, Leona and Haley are seniors who bring a lot of experience to the table, some in singles and some in doubles. They’ll contribute wherever they (play),” said Warriors coach Dan Crist. “Sasha is going to be the person to beat (in Wesco 3A). She’s a real strong, steady, heady player. Shorecrest is always good. I thought Meadowdale had a real solid team last year, and Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace seem to get better every year.”

4 Jackson’s Moon is “a natural born leader,” according to her coach. Moon reached the 4A state tournament in doubles last year but is aiming to qualify in singles this spring. “Her mental (makeup) is the toughest part of her game,” Montgomery said. “She may not have the strongest strokes or best serve in the league, but I know I’m going to get 100 percent out of her every single match.”

5 Edmonds-Woodway’s Olson is ready to take the next step. Last season Olson started out as the Warriors’ No. 2 singles player, but she took third place at the 3A Northwest District tournament to advance to the 3A state tourney. She’ll start this spring as the Warriors’ No. 1 singles player, and hopes for a repeat trip to the state tournament. “She doesn’t like to lose,” Crist said. “She’s a steady player, but she’s aggressive. She’s thoughtful, plays smart and puts pressure on her opponent.”

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