TENNIS PREVIEW: Five to watch

Jane Hong

Edmonds-Woodway, sophomore

With only one year of high school tennis experience, Hong is already a serious threat on the tennis court. Last year, Hong placed third in the Wesco South tournament and just barely missed the cut to go to state with a fourth-place finish in the 4A District 1 meet.

“I am hopeful that this year she will be able to qualify for state, be it in singles or doubles,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Crist said.

As a freshman, Hong earned a spot on the all- Wesco South first team.

Julie Mills

Everett, senior

As a four-year varsity player, Mills has steadily improved from being an alternate to state as a freshman and sophomore to qualifying for the state tournament last year after placing second in the conference and first in 3A District 1. Now a co-captain and the No. 1 singles player for the Seagulls, Mills has a strong serve and ever-improving footwork to help guide her through the season.

“Julie is a very competitive and determined player,” Everett coach Tim Boyd said. “She plays with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm and considers sportsmanship and respect for other players very important.”

If Mills can stay healthy — she struggled with tendinitis last year — and continue to work hard all season, Boyd hopes she can peak at the right time and perform well in the postseason.

Erin Neilon

Oak Harbor, senior

Tennis involves a lot of individual skills all wrapped up in one athlete. Neilon has the right combination of “endurance, strategy, speed and quickness,” according to Oak Harbor coach Horace Mells.

As a four-year varsity player, Neilon has left her mark on the Wesco North with a fourth-place finish in the division tournament last year and the honor of being named to the All-Wesco North team.

Although she’s yet to qualify for the state tournament, Mells hopes that this season will be the year that she shows the entire state what she can do.

Katie Slaker

Lake Stevens, senior

As Lake Stevens’ number one singles player, Slaker brings her United States Tennis Association’s Pacific Northwest tournament experience — she competes in the Junior A tournaments and has won several of them — to the Wesco North.

“She has an uncanny ability to hold her shot and change the direction of the ball at the last second,” Lake Stevens coach Jeff Leer said. “This will make her very competitive at the number one slot this year with the majority of the league’s number ones.”

Slaker is also the team co-captain and serves as a strong role model for the underclassman, according to Leer.

“As our representative, she makes Lake Stevens look good,” said Leer.

Julia Sierra Castano

Coupeville, junior

Growing up in Spain, Castano played competitive tennis until deciding to step back from the sport two-and-a-half years ago. Now an exchange student at Coupeville, she’s decided to give the sport another shot and coach Ken Stange thinks she has the talent to earn District 1’s top seed to the 1A Quad-District tournament.

“Consistency is one of Julia’s greatest strengths on the tennis court,” Stange said. “She possesses great racquet control and can place the ball quite well.”

Although Spain is known for its clay courts, Castano specialized in the hard courts, which is what the league plays on.

“When she told me that she was a hard court player, I could only smile,” said Stange.

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