Fabulous Thunderbirds dominate Wesco South tennis

  • Tony Dondero<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:30am

SHORELINE — Players on the Shorewood girls tennis team continue to devour opponents like they scarf down snacks.

The unbeaten Thunderbirds always have a ton of food at matches such as pizza, bagels, ice cream, cake, chips, croissants or Costco muffins. Those foods might not be the healthiest of dining options but for the Thunderbirds there’s no arguing with success.

After its 7-0 victory over Kamiak on April 25, Shorewood improved to 13-0 as a team in Western Conference South Division play. The Thunderbirds have dominated opponents, winning 176 sets and losing only 10. Last year, they won 224 sets and lost 18.

The Thunderbirds, who went 16-0 last year, are closing in a rare feat of back-to-back undefeated seasons.

“They’re feeling it right now,” fourth-year Shorewood head coach Arnie Moreno said. “They know not many teams get to do this. It’s getting to the point where it’s exciting, but at the same time everybody’s feeling a little bit of pressure.”

But with the ease that the Thunderbirds dispatch opponents — their top four singles players often sweep both sets in 45 minutes or less — they seem fairly relaxed.

Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Crist, who shifted his top singles players to doubles April 20 to get better matchups with Shorewood, still could only steal one win from the fabulous Thunderbirds.

“They’re good every year,” Crist said.

Coaches are inclined to surrender to Shorewood’s tough singles lineup led by senior Samantha Lim at No. 1. Lim has held that slot since she was a freshman, except for last season when German exchange student Verena Sackl beat her out.

Lim had not lost a singles match in two years until Meadowdale’s Lauren Summers defeated her, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, April 19. It was also the Thunderbirds’ only loss in singles this year. Lim had two match points but couldn’t put the Mavericks’ ace away.

“They had some long rallies,” Moreno said. “One of the best high school girls matches I’ve seen in a long time.”

Although Lim hadn’t played Summers, she was familiar with her game from watching her play at Harbor Square, the Edmonds tennis club where Lim and teammates Jordan Reni and Anna Chatilo play.

“When I did play her it was really fun because I was challenged a lot, I was pushed,” said Lim, whose best opposition is usually on her own team. “Even though I did lose, I played my hardest.”

Reni, also a senior, is undefeated at No. 2 singles. She’s cruised through her matches, losing her only set of the year to Edmonds-Woodway’s Shannon McCleary.

“I like going to the net,” Reni said. “I’m not really like Sam. She likes to sit at the baseline and rip ground strokes. I’m more of a net person.”

Lim and Reni, who teamed up to play doubles in the postseason last year, came up one match short of a state berth. Lim, a lefty, played essentially one-handed after slicing a finger on her right hand while cutting an apple.

The formidable twosome have started playing doubles again, and will pair up at the Wesco South tournament at Jackson May 11-13 and Northwest District tournament at Stanwood May 18-20. Expected to be the top seed in the division tournament, Lim and Reni have their sights ultimately set on the state tournament in Vancouver May 26-27.

The No. 3 singles player, junior Kari Fiske, is 13-0 on the season and has yet to lose a set. She qualified for state last year in doubles with graduate Kali Chamberlain. Fiske will be Shorewood’s top seeded singles player in the division meet.

Freshman left-hander Anna Chatilo is unbeaten at No. 4 singles. Chatilo bumped senior Dan Dan Ma, who went 15-1 at No. 4 singles last year. Ma and Chatilo will battle for the second postseason singles slot, Moreno said.

Junior Elle MacGeorge and Emily Sands, sporting a 10-0 record in doubles, are the likely second seed in the divisional tournament behind Lim and Reni.

Meanwhile, Ma tops a long list of players that have played mostly doubles, including seniors Christina Breaden, Cassie Lee, Kirsten Ostgard and Brie Davis; juniors Seneca Shafer, Danielle Kim, Barbara Odell and Brie Fulghum-Behen; and sophomores Lisa Hamman and Stephanie Lim, sister of Samantha.

“I’m just very proud of our team as a whole,” Lim said. “I feel like all the players are really strong, top to bottom.”

Last year, Shorewood sent six players to the Northwest District tournament en route to the district championship.

Moreno said he believes this year’s squad is better than last year’s team because he has more experienced players.

“We have a good combination of talent and experience,” Moreno said. “Going deep into our lineup it’s all about matchups.”

The players have sound fundamentals and good understanding of the game, Moreno said.

“They know how to set up their points,” he said. “They also know how to play within their own abilities. They don’t try to stretch themselves out to the point where they’re doing stuff they can’t do, shots they can’t make … Obviously they make mistakes but we are lucky in that because our players are so experienced they limit their mistakes.”

Lim started playing in sixth grade at the urging of her father, Sonny, an avid player himself. Initially, Lim, who was playing soccer and basketball for school teams, resisted but she grew to like the sport.

“In tennis when I play singles it’s just me so I can mentally strategize what I do wrong,” Lim said. “So I found that pretty cool.”

Lim, who plays year-round at Harbor Square, played club soccer until last year, but now is focused on tennis.

“She’d be a good athlete in any sport,” Moreno said. “With her speed and athletic ability she could be a great basketball player. I could see her doing any sport she really wanted to but luckily for us she’s good at tennis.”

For college, Lim is looking at the University of Washington and Santa Clara, but academics — she wants to major in international studies or business — comes before tennis.

Reni plans to go to Western Washington University and would like to play on the tennis team. Her brother Peter, a Shorewood graduate, is a sophomore at Western and a standout on the men’s team.

As the season winds down, no team appears capable of knocking the Thunderbirds off their perch.

“We’ve gotten better every year,” Reni said. “We’ve stayed in the same order (in the ladder) on the team. That shows everyone’s improving. We stay in the same place but we keep getting better. It’s been fun.”

Talk to us