Young racqueteers ready for Metro fray

Junior Taylor Lea serves at practice. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Junior Taylor Lea serves at practice.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

The squad hopes to overcome its inexperience at the varsity tennis level.

With Whitney Cheng among seven other seniors graduating last year, one would think the Bainbridge tennis teams are doomed to mediocrity for a while.

But ninth-year head coach Mike Anderson disagrees.

“Whitney was an exceptional player,” he said. “They don’t come around very often, but that’s a chapter that’s ended now. The kids on this team want to write their own chapter and be the best they can be.”

Whether that chapter has a happy or sad ending remains to be seen, as the Spartans compete for a Metro title for the 2006 prep season.

Last year the team finished third in Metro to their main rivals Seattle Prep and Lakeside, but the big story was Cheng, who had a record of 28-0 until she came up short at the 3A state championship match at the University of Washington to Jennifer Lewellen of Evergreen, losing 6-2, 6-4.

She exited as the school’s all-time leader in wins, but 11 lettermen and women return to give both sides an actual “team” feel, according to Anderson.

“This team is working harder than any other teams I’ve had in the past,” he said. “We’re really looking at this as a team thing and doing as well as we can, rather than an individual thing. Nobody’s even thinking about individual stuff as far as postseason play right now. We’ll probably get to that later in the season.”

But they do have solid individual players, starting with their two senior co-captains, Sean Brachvogel and Lauren Trageser. Brachvogel went 12-6 playing singles and doubles matches, while Trageser was 6-5.

“They’re very versatile,” Anderson said. “They can play both singles and doubles. Both bring in good leadership and are all about the team. They’re pretty good about that.”

Trageser won her match against the number three singles player from Lakeside last Friday, while Brachvogel lost a tough three-game set.

The Spartans’ number one singles player on the boys side is junior Spencer Cheng, Whitney’s brother. He was 4-5 last year.

On the girls side, junior Molly Donohue is the number one singles player. She was 19-6 last season.

“Playing as the number one is tough in our league because everyone has a number one player,” Anderson said. “But they’ll make a difference.”

Junior Taylor Lea (10-7) and Erik Saska make up the other returners on the boys’ singles side, while juniors Nash Reijnen and Darton Gibbons are the top returners on the boys’ doubles side.

The top returners for the girls include singles players in juniors Anna Judson (13-8), Jamie Slonaker (4-2) and Taylor Raquer (2-1.)

As for the newcomers, Anderson likes junior Kyle Nyberg and sophomores Luke Freedman and Jonathan Potter on the boys side and juniors Allie Loechl, Natalie Willits, and sophomores Becky Gottlieb and Birgitte Gingold on the girls side.

“All of them have really good potential,” he said. “We’re definitely not going to have elite players, but we have some kids that can sneak in and go pretty far and make a good showing in the league.”

That’s where the weakness lies, as many players suffer from not enough varsity experience. Anderson understands that and hopes the kids catch on quickly.

Right now, he wants to work on conditioning and the mental game of tennis with the kids to help them and their game.

“I’m hoping it pays off later in the season,” he said. “The kids have not been complaining about it and putting forth effort every day. That’s all we can ask.”

They’ll need that effort against their rivals Lakeside and Seattle Prep. Ever since the Spartans have been in the Metro League, they’ve never beaten Prep and only defeated Lakeside for the first time last year.

While Anderson would like to beat Prep, he’ll keep his team competitive in the meantime.

“That’s our goal,” he said. “We want to be just a little bit better than last time and keep with the top teams.”

Bainbridge played a makeup match with Eastside Catholic yesterday.

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