It may seem Anna Lambert was destined for tennis success, considering she became No. 1 singles player as a freshman at Gonzaga Prep.
Three older siblings had played the game, including two sisters who preceded her with the Bullpups. She nearly placed at state her first year at G-Prep.
Yet Lambert was a relative neophyte when she made her auspicious debut, having only taken up the sport the summer prior to beginning high school.
“I like to think of myself as a pretty quick learner,” Lambert said.
She had played soccer, basketball and volleyball and anticipated being a high school soccer player before picking up tennis and falling in love with it.
Now a senior, Lambert is chasing a third state appearance in four years as G-Prep’s top player.
She came within a match of placing in state that freshman season, denied a medal following a 7-5, 7-6 tiebreaker consolation loss. She missed state as a sophomore, when only three from the eastern region qualified, but returned last year. All that remains for the Seattle University-bound student-athlete is to earn that elusive medal.
Having run the gamut of competing in club sports growing up, she said picking up the new sport came easy, in a sense. Her father, Spokane physician Richard Lambert, explained how this scion of a high-achieving family joined a tennis program at the Spokane Racquet Club between eighth and ninth grade and progressed quickly under the tutelage of Jeff Urie.
“He encouraged her to (take up) United States Tennis Association competition,” her father said.
After a couple of challenge division tournament victories, Lambert moved quickly into the championship class, has ranked as high as ninth in USTA regional age-group play, and became an instant success in high school.
Bullpups coach Donna Lenseigne welcomed her four springs ago, her arrival coinciding with the unveiling of new on-campus tennis courts.
“I coached her older two sisters and was happy to have another member of the family,” Lenseigne said. “I knew she was pretty good.”
But Lambert was also somewhat shy and reserved and perhaps felt intimidated, Lenseigne said.
“I think the camaraderie with her teammates made her more and more comfortable,” she said.
Lambert agreed, saying she “didn’t want to make enemies and loved being on such a supportive team.”
But she turned out to be deadly serious about the game.
Lenseigne said Lambert is not a serve-and-volley player; she prefers to stay back and exploit an opponent’s weaknesses. Lambert considers herself an all-around player and said she loves to come to the net.
So far, Lambert has compiled a 23-6 Greater Spokane League singles dual match record, finished third or higher in district and fourth or higher in regional during the course of four seasons. She was both district and regional champion last year. Among her career highlights was an upset of eventual state placer, Lewis and Clark’s Elise Otto, in the district semifinals as a freshman.
Lambert opened this season with a loss to North Central exchange student Karin Chymcakova (from Slovakia) and beat fellow GSL state qualifier Leslie Ho of Central Valley despite going the day without eating because she was undergoing medical tests. Lambert was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an intestinal disorder, but is now taking medicine to control it.
“It’s definitely not fun, but if I eat the right foods and avoid others I can keep the inflammation down,” she said. “I’m not 100 percent, that’s for sure, but I’m getting a little bit better every day.”
Lambert will continue her career at Seattle University and major in computer science or engineering.
It turns out she’s as competitive in the classroom as on the tennis court. Sports make up just one facet of Lambert’s well-rounded and focused life.