Boys' tennis team continues slow growth

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SNOQUALMIE - The Mount Si boys' tennis team hopes to continue its steady growth this year, and one day climb to the top of the Kingco 3A conference. The team, coached by Gary Olson, in his third year, finished in the back of the pack in 2003.

The program continues to be a place where the players are there to learn just as much as compete. And this year's team, according to Olson, is prepared for that scenario.

"I think there's a lot of guys that are wanting to learn which really is good for me because we've had some guys in the past that maybe weren't as open to learning and being teachable as I think this group is. So that's going to be really helpful. If they want to learn the game they'll go out and hopefully work on their own," said the coach.

A recent storm that rolled through the Valley put a significant hurdle in the team's ability to practice and learn, as the team had to play indoors for much of its first week of practice in late August, and the hitting wall that was constructed last year for both tennis programs was damaged by wind, according to Olson.

The top returning players are sophomore Tyler Emsky and junior Greg Beckmann. It is not often when it can be said that the seniors on the team are all new, but in this case, the team's two elders, Justin Hartley and Mike Cruse, are both new to the squad.

"[I] hope to just compete with other players, hopefully do good in some matches, [and] as a senior I want to be a leader," said Hartley.

The roster is still in flux, though. Despite 30 players turning out, Olson said that due to the high school apparently not doing a sign-up process for this year's incoming freshmen last spring at the middle schools, there weren't as many freshmen as he expected that turned out. He hopes that will change.

Mount Si will contend with Newport and Mercer Island once again, and both the Knights and Islanders are favored to be at the top of the league this season. Mount Si's fate, Olson said, "just depends on how competitive these guys are [when] we get them on the court, but this is probably one of the best leagues in the state," referring to the Kingco 3A.

Olson thinks that growth of his sport will only occur one way in the Valley. "You have to kind of get them started younger if you're going to be really competitive," he said, pointing to football locally as an example with players in that sport starting early.

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