Sports

Mount Si girls tennis continues to grow

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SNOQUALMIE - The Mount Si Wildcats girls tennis program is continuing to grow slowly but surely. After a 1-7 season last year, the team returns with some talent, but with the program having lost seven kids, six of whom graduated, it likely will be a tough road yet again.

Veteran coach Sue Gallacher returns for her eighth campaign with the Wildcats and will have a full program to work with this season. The team turned out 40 athletes this spring, and leading the cast are a pair of juniors: Britta Safstrom and Alina Plavsky. Joining that group is senior Nicole Vanourek. The main newcomer to the program is freshman Erika Strine. Gallacher is excited about what Strine brings to the program.

"She's played for four-and-a- half years so she has a lot of tennis behind her, but she's going to be a very, very good player," Gallacher said.

Strine looks to contribute a lot in her freshman season.

"Well, I really try hard, and I've been practicing for over four years so I hope I can help out the team," she said.

Two other seniors, Rebecca Coffey and Nena Gonzalez, likely will be looked upon to provide additional leadership for the younger players on the team.

Teaching the game is Gallacher's top priority this season.

"We have a really young team this year after losing seven bodies off our varsity squad from last season so we're teaching lots of basic skills, learning how to play and respect the game, working hard and having some fun along the way," said Gallacher.

Strine was introduced to the sport by her parents.

"My mom started it for me because I didn't like anything else, but then my dad played with me like every week, and it's kind of sprouted from that," she said.

Vanourek hopes to provide leadership, not just for Strine, but for the other girls on the team as well.

"To help all the younger girls succeed in general, I just hope to be a good role model and exhibit positive leadership because that's always been something that I've enjoyed in the past by the older girls, and now I'm in that position so I just hope to help her remain positive and not get down and not give up," Vanourek said.

The main theme for this season is hitting, according to Gallacher. Having the hitting wall at the north end of the tennis courts installed a couple of years ago will help immensely in that effort.

One thing that continues to be a problem for the growth of the program is the lack of a local tennis club, one which Gallacher continues to hope will eventually materialize in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood in Snoqualmie. In the interim, girls who want to get that kind of practice time usually have to go to Issaquah or Bellevue. Those that do make the effort are rewarded, according to Gallacher.

"It's an extra effort for those kids who want to do it and it pays off for those kids who do it," Gallacher said.

The team stands to have a difficult time yet again this season with the likes of usual suspects Newport, Mercer Island, Sammamish and Issaquah. Strine is philosophical about the tall task ahead.

"Well, I guess we can only do our best so we'll try and beat them," Strine said.

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