Young Bulldog squad ready to raise a racket in Western B-C
ST. IGNATIUS — The Mission tennis coach is counting on a youth movement to propel her team to success this season.
Only three varsity boys – all juniors – are returning from last year’s team, who finished third in the state, and three sophomore girls are returning to last year’s third-place divisional team.
In her second year as Mission head coach and fifth year coaching at the school, Kimimi Ashley isn’t worried about her team’s youthfulness.
“Right now the team’s strong point is their cohesiveness. The kids all get along and support each other. The more experienced ones are really stepping up as examples by their work ethics and stepping in to help the newer kids,” Ashley said.
Juniors Spencer Ahlborn, Trail Bundy and Brian Schock are the ones leading the boys’ team. Last year as Mission’s third-seeded single players at the state championship, Ahlborn made it to the final day of the tournament. After watching Ahlborn at state last year, Ashley was confident that he will be a state contender this year.
Bundy and Schock were teamed up as a doubles team last year, making it to the state tournament.
Ahlborn, Schock and Bundy will lead a team full of freshmen. Seven of the 16 boys on the roster are ninth graders.
Ashley expects new additions: Wes Navlen, Bass, Kyle Schock, Nikko Alexander, Paden Alexander and Xavier Streets to solidify the boys’ team.
“They have all had some experience under their belts with Mission tennis and are looking forward to starting out their high school tennis career with a strong team this year,” Ashley said.
Sarah Bowers, Jane Makepeace and Morgan Andres are the returning Lady Bulldogs. As a freshman, Bowers teamed up with Senior Anna Fehrs to finish first at the Western B-C Divisional Tournament. This year Bowers should be the Lady Bulldogs’ number one singles player.
“She has really stepped up as a leader of the girls this year in not only her playing, but in her guidance and attitude towards her work. She should have a great year ahead of her and it’s nice that she is only a sophomore,” Ashley said.
Makepeace finished fifth in singles play at the divisional tournament last year to qualify for the state tournament as a freshman.
Seniors Rachel Jensen and Becky Hiatt decided to join the team, Ashley just wishes they would have made this decision as freshman.
“They have both taken it on very well for their first year with no past experience. I’m looking for them to be good contenders at the end of the year as they get more match play under their belts and their belief levels built up,” Ashley said.
Jenny Dillard is another new addition to the team. The senior didn’t play last year, but played as a sophomore.
“She (Dillard) is going to be someone to watch this year also. She is a tough player and mentally strong on the court. All in all, this is one of the years that we have more than just one or two strong girls. We have a core group, so we are excited to see what they will be able to do,” Ashley said.
She said that with such strong players on both the boys’ and girls’ team that her athletes are able to push each other and teach one another, which only makes them better.
Ashley said that the Bulldogs have a lot of potential this season, they just need to believe in their potential. If they can do this, they’ll be a force at the end of the season.
“Once you have that belief and confidence in yourself, nothing can get you down and you start raising the level of the goals that you set at the beginning of the season. Both the boys and girls team this year are able to do some damage with just a little confidence,” Ashley said.
The Bulldogs will try to start building this confidence this Saturday in Eureka.