When two of his players reached the District 8 4A girls tennis singles semifinals last spring, Central Valley coach Stan Chalich did something he hasn’t done in some five decades on the job.
He stopped coaching.
Last year’s freshman sensation Kyra Harmes qualified for the semifinal. A first-team All-Greater Spokane League pick and close to breaking into the USTA Pacific Northwest rankings a year ago, Harmes had stepped in ably at No. 1 all season.
Her surprise opponent in the semifinal was sophomore Abby Pedersen, who had moved up to play as the Lady Bears No. 2 singles entry after a teammate went down with an injury.
Chalich figured he’d coached the pair enough and told each one to go out and leave their game on the court – but he warned that they had been great friends before the match and he expected them to remain great friends after.
That Pedersen was the upset winner in three sets came as no surprise to the coach.
The pair, and the rest of a very young and talented team, returns this year and expectations are high.
University girls coach Julene Osborn had a similar situation in the girls Class 3A district tournament, where her No. 1 singles player, All-GSL first-teamer Lauren Stubber, a senior, faced off against junior teammate Mercedee Smith in the final, with Smith pulling off the upset – and going on to lose in the regional singles final to three-year regional champ Sierra Troxel of Hanford.
The good news for Smith, now the top Titan singles player, is that Troxel now has taken her game to Lipscomb University, so the door is open for a shot at the regional title and a trip to the state tournament.
Meanwhile, University has hired a familiar name to take over its boys tennis program.
Aaron Alteneder, who had great success building the girls program at East Valley in the ’90s, says he’s excited to take over the Titans.
“I have over a decade of head high school tennis coaching experience and over 25 years of (off and on) coaching the game of tennis.”
Alteneder already has a good handle on how his Titans are shaping up. Sophomore Kyle Smithgall, last year’s No. 4 singles player is the early No. 1 after a dedicated off-season.
Seniors Tyler Bates and Josh Ramsey currently sit at No. 2 and No. 3 singles spots, but the No. 4, Seth Olson, is making great strides and the coach sees him challenging up.
“(He’s) a junior who played baseball all his life until last summer when he picked up a tennis racquet and found that he loved the game of tennis,” the coach said via email.
In fact, the Titans return nine of last year’s 10 varsity letter winners, including four of last year’s top five.
Chris Osborn played both varsity singles and varsity doubles a year ago. Andy Jackson and Brad Earl enter the start of the season as the No. 1 doubles team.
East Valley/West Valley
Both East Valley and West Valley, too, have new coaches this spring.
Claire Hanson is new to coaching and takes over a young girls varsity at EV.
“My No. 1 singles player is Brittany Nelson and my No. 2 is a freshman who looks very promising and her name is Macy Paschall,” she wrote in an email outlining her squad. “My top two doubles teams are strong looking (among) Shalyn Stack, Valarie Milliken, Hayley Pimm and Kendra Chavez.”
The Eagles needed a head boys tennis coach once Jamie Nilles was hired as the school’s athletic director and found Matt Wallblom already in the district and teaching at Dishman Hills.
He welcomes back district runner-up Chris Myers, who’s coming off a great off-season and is intent on reaching the state tournament.
Wrestler Cameron Conner is busily making the transition to the court and is intent on ending both seasons with a state tournament experience. He’ll likely pair with four-year letterwinner Ty Laboy in doubles later in the season.
WV girls coach Clay Nelson has a large squad out, with 40 battling for spots on the varsity.
Senior Brittany Fetters, a three-year letter winner, just missed reaching the state tournament as the team’s No. 1 singles player last year. She returns in that sport, but the coach says she will compete in doubles in the post-season if it means a better shot at getting her to the state tournament.
The team’s top doubles team is made up completely of Sinners – freshman twins Claire and Lily Sinner.