The Juneau Douglas High School tennis team is sending eight players to Anchorage for the tournament.
JDHS has had a tennis team for 11 years, and it’s still the only team in Southeast Alaska’s Region Five.
It started when Juneau’s Alaska Club was locally owned, had a full-blown tennis program and five courts. Now it’s owned by an outside company, has three courts and no tennis pro. But head coach Amy Skilbred and JDHS history teacher Kurt Dzinich, assistant coach, find little difficulty attracting kids to the sport.
“A lot of our team begins freshman or sophomore year, never having picked up a racquet before. And it’s really fun to see them develop over the four years they’re here and go on and play state their sophomore or junior year,” Skilbred says.
In the recent Region Five tournament – which was just the Juneau team — 17-year-old Jasper MacNaughton finished “first place in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles and I’m a junior. I guess that’s the first time that’s happened that a junior’s gotten first place in all three. So that’s pretty exciting for me.”
MacNaughton is one of 42 team members. Tennis is sort of a family affair for the MacNaughton’s and four other families that have two kids on the team this fall.
Final roster for 2013 JDHS State Tennis Team:
Boys Singles: Jon Scudder
Girls Singles: Bailey Davenport
Boys Doubles: Ben Scudder, Sam Bibb
Girls Doubles: Sami Good, Kathe Tallmadge
Mixed Doubles: Emma Good, Jasper MacNaughton
Alternates: Johnny Connolly, Catherine Walsh
Sami Good is a freshman and has been playing tennis since about 4th grade. She says her backhand is her most consistent shot, and knows every point counts.
“If you mess up, you can just do it again in the next point, so you just keep bettering every point,” she says.
She likes doubles better than singles because partners encourage and help each other.
Like her partner at state, senior Kathe Tallmadge. She has played all four years for JDHS and traveled to the state tournament last year. But her first round draw turned out to be the state champion and Tallmadge says “it didn’t go very well.”
Tennis is her only sport. She says her game has improved a lot this year and the highlight was a visit to the team by professional coach Mike Hinkle.
“It’s really good to have an outside perspective on your playing because then he’s able to give you tips and directions on how to change your shots that some of the other coaches might not because they’ve seen you play so much,” she says.
Coach Hinkle will be working with individual players during the state tournament, another bonus for those who get to compete.
Fifteen-year-old Jon Scudder will play in boys singles this weekend. He joined the team last year as cross training for soccer. Now he’s hooked.
Sometimes, he says, it’s just fun to hit something as hard as you can.
“Like over and over again, kind of just take out whatever you want on the ball,” Scudder says.
Most JDHS team members come from other sports, and though cross-training is good, Coach Skilbred tells them the best way to get better at tennis is to play tennis.
JDHS has had as many as 60 kids participate on the no-cut team.
“I think it teaches you relying on yourself, some self-confidence, working with the team and others, helping newer players on the team so that you’re not just only concerned about yourself as a team member,” Skilbred says. “And it’s a lifelong sport. You don’t need 21 other people to go play tennis; you can find one other person and go play.”
The Juneau players will compete Friday and Saturday in the seventh Alaska State High School Tennis Championship. Matches will be played at the East and North Alaska Clubs in Anchorage.