Cougar tennis hopes for improvement with seasoned squad

The Lakewood tennis teams returning seniors, from left, Sarah Griffith, Courtney Prosser, Emily Steinborn, Karli Hesselman, Kristen Nelson and Chelsea Wendt. -
The Lakewood tennis teams returning seniors, from left, Sarah Griffith, Courtney Prosser, Emily Steinborn, Karli Hesselman, Kristen Nelson and Chelsea Wendt.
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Despite competing with some of the states best tennis players, Lakewood girls tennis coach Bob Walker is excited about the talent of his team.
Though the girls went 5-11 last season, Lakewood returns nine veterans from last years squad. Furthermore, the Cougars compete against only one Cascade Conference rival instead, they play a regular season schedule of 12 schools, more than half of which qualify for the tougher 3A athletic division. One such team is a Bellingham squad that went 16-0 last year, while fellow league opponents Lynden and South Whidbey each garnered a piece of the state championship in 2007.
Furthermore, the latter two schools return the states top two singles players 2A state champ Lindsey Newman, a junior this year at South Whidbey, and senior and runner-up, Erica Bosman of Lynden.
Though only the districts top three singles players go to state, Walker thinks senior Karli Hesselman has a good chance at joining Newman and Bosman there this year. Hesselman, Lakewoods returning number one singles player, finished fourth in districts to qualify for an alternates berth to state.
She had a real good season, Walker said. So I would hope Karli will be competing for that third slot.
Three other veterans of the girls basketball team join Hesselman on the court. Senior Emily Steinborn and juniors Jillian and Jocelyn Shafer will compete in doubles.
Basketball players make good tennis players because the movement and flow around the court is similar to that sport, Walker added, explaining the sports share similar moves, quick steps.
Walker expects senior Courtney Prosser to compete for the teams number two singles spot, while Kristen Nelson, Chelsea Wendt and Sarah Griffith also return to play for their senior season.
One new face on the team will most likely be senior Yuka Asamo, a foreign exchange student from Japan, whom Walker expects to compete for a chance to play singles. Asamo spent time playing in Japan and takes lessons in Stanwood with freshman Hannah Ross, a member of her host family.
Hannah is, from what I can see, our most promising freshman at this point. And Yuka certainly shows that shes played as well, Walker said.
He added that with so many returning players, Lakewoods experience should be an asset this season.
In addition, Walker said, he sees a lot of talent going down his roster.
I think the other strength of our team is our depth. From our top singles to our third doubles, were not necessarily bringing newcomers in to fill our spots, he said. The one Im going to bring in for that tenth slot is Yuka.
While Walkers goal of a .500 team record this season sounds like a modest one, he knows hes facing some cutthroat competition in this league.
There are some very tough teams in the league, he said. So we know what were up against. Lynden was tied for the state title last year, team-wise. Im realistic about some of the teams in our league. Sehome is a tough team. South Whidbey, of course, the returning state champ. Anacortes had some kids go to state. We could be improved, but we also take a realistic view at our competition. If we got to 8-8 this year, I would be very pleased.

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