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CV sophomore hoping for second state tourney

Leslie Ho focused on next week’s event

At some point you have to remind yourself that Leslie Ho is just finishing her sophomore year at Central Valley High School.

Already in her young career the Bears’ No. 1 girls’ singles tennis player was an All-Greater Spokane League selection and is a virtual lock to earn that honor a second time when the league announces its list later this month. She’s already a veteran of the state Class 4A tournament. And her name has begun to pop up on lists of young players collegiate coaches will begin to target for their teams beginning in 2013.

All that before she’s so much as taken her SAT.

“That last one I don’t want to know about,” Ho said, laughing. “I haven’t heard about those lists. I do want to play tennis in college – that would be great. But there’s time to worry about that later.”

Right now Ho’s focused on the first step toward a return trip to the state tournament: the Northeast 4A District tournament that begins next week at Central Valley.

The sophomore will most likely be the No. 2 seed in that tournament, having secured that position by defeating Katijene Stime of Mead, 6-2, 7-5, in the final match of the GSL season. Gonzaga Prep senior Anna Lambert will be the No. 1 Class 4A seed. Stime will be No. 3.

“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now,” Ho said. “I’m playing good. I wish we’d won a few more matches as a team and we lost to some teams that we shouldn’t have lost to, but I’m happy about my own matches. I finished third in the league behind Anna and the girl from North Central (league champion Karin Chymcakova, an exchange student from Slovakia).

“I’ve always had good matches with Anna and the girl from NC has just destroyed everyone in league this year. I am so thankful that she’s not going to be in the district tournament – but I’m sure she’s going to get to state (in Class 3A).”

Ho improved her standing by a place in the final week of the regular season.

Ho was seeded No. 4 going into last weekend’s Inland Empire Tennis Tournament at Mead.

The sophomore won her first two matches in straight sets and survived a three-set battle with Southridge’s Melissa Ling, originally slotted to be the No. 4 seed, finishing 6-2, 6-7, 7-6.

Then she faced Chymcakova in the semifinal and was stopped without winning a single game, 6-0, 6-0.

“I did much better against her when I played her in league,” Ho said, referring to the 7-5, 6-3 score from their April 28 match. “I just wasn’t ready to play the match at Inland Empire. It was cold, it was rainy. At first they told us our match was off and then, at the last minute, it was back on and we had to rush out and play. I wasn’t loose and I wasn’t ready.”

Ho was slated to play Stime in the third-place match, but the Mead player defaulted due to illness and the Lady Bear took home the third-place medal. Wednesday’s match put proof to the finishing order.

Meanwhile Lambert and Chymcakova will play the tournament championship match Monday at North Central – the event postponed because of, among other things, the Gonzaga Prep senior prom.

Ho said she learned a great deal about the state tournament a year ago, even though she lost her only two matches there.

“I got there and watched a few matches and kind of got scared,” she admitted. “The players from the West Side come over and they are all so good and hit so hard. It’s a little intimidating. They’ve all played a lot of tennis.

“The Inland Empire tournament is good and the competition is tough, but it’s nothing compared to state.”

Ho has a secret weapon, however.

Her brother, Peter, is the No. 1 singles player for the Central Valley boys.

“We hit together all the time,” his sister said. “He’s a lot like another coach for me. He’s always giving me advice and he hits the ball at me hard. That helps get me ready to play against better players.”

She admits to having a secret dream for next year’s Inland Empire tourney.

“I would love to play mixed doubles with him next year,” she said. “It would be the last chance we have to do it, but it would be kinda tricky.”

The siblings, she said, have a somewhat fiery on-court demeanor.

“He’s always yelling at me,” she said. “And I usually yell right back at him. If we played the tournament together I’d have to keep my mouth shut.

“I can do that. I really can.”

Well, maybe. One area she refused to keep quiet about is the state tournament.

“He has a good shot at getting there last year, but he got cocky,” she explains. “He won a match and decided he was going to jump over the net. He fell and hurt himself, so the coach put him with the No. 2 singles player and made them a doubles team and they fell flat. Peter doesn’t play much doubles.”

“I hold that over him all the time,” she laughed. “I tell him to get back to me when he’s made it to state.”