Mount Si boys' tennis continues climb

The Mount Si boys' tennis team looks to have a great group this season, as the program continues its slow, but steady, growth.

Gary Olson returns for his fifth year as coach, and he is assisted once again this season by junior-varsity coach Jane Job, also in her fifth year, and volunteer Eric Hanson, in his second season of helping with the program.

Despite not winning a single match last fall, Olson is looking to have a good 2006 season.

"They're really gelling as far as just working really hard and there's a lot of competitive guys. We've got a ton of sophomores, new guys, this year, so it's looking like it's going to be a really fun group," Olson said.

Leading the limited senior class on the team this year is lone varsity returnee Bryce Wilson. Wilson looks to provide leadership.

"I'm going to lead the team ... by example. Show them what I did throughout my four years here, which got me to where I am today, the top of the tennis team," Wilson said.

Other seniors who are new and could provide a spark include Jerrett Rhoads and Garrett Mork.

There is a strong stable of underclassmen, but there is one very high-profile newcomer in that group. Former basketball standout Caleb Williams, a junior this year, returns to athletic competition with the tennis program this fall following his 2005 accident on the Snoqualmie River that severly injured him. The story of Williams' long road to recovery is well known in the Valley, and Olson offered praise for his newcomer. "He's just a competitor and he's doing really well," Olson said.

The program's philosophy continues to be skill development and growth in the sport. To that end, Olson, Job and girls' varsity coach Sue Gallacher held a camp over the summer at Mount Si High School that attracted around 25 participants ranging in age from 5 to 14.

"It was just a fun time and just introducing these little ones to tennis and getting out there, and so we had a lot of comments from the parents that they would have loved to have one for them," Olson said.

He added that in light of the feedback, they're looking to offer more camps and get the information out earlier next year. "We'll offer it a lot sooner. I think we'll get a lot more participants," he said. Olson also indicated that while Gallacher had held these camps in the past, this was the first time he was involved in one.

The hitting wall that was installed a couple of years ago at the high school courts also is a vital part of continuing that development.

As it is every year, Kingco 3A looks to be tough, and once again, the usual suspects of Newport, Mercer Island and Bellevue are the teams to beat, but it can be argued that Skyline and Issaquah may make some inroads this season with the Wildcats down among the lower end of clubs in the conference. Olson admitted.

"If we beat Liberty; that's who we shoot for," but he also indicated that with the athleticism of the group he has, beating the Patriots should be doable. Wilson, also, is ready.

"I'm looking forward to playing Interlake and Liberty, they're the ones I'm targeting on my schedule this year," Wilson said.

Another key to success will be team unity. While the Valley Record waited to conduct interviews at the practice Aug. 25, it witnessed a rather lively and loose group, led primarily by Wilson, finish up with games and drills.

"The unity right now, it's just started and it's just great right now," said Wilson, who added that he hasn't seen it this strong in his four years in the program.

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