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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Prep tennis: Smithgalls lead the way at University

Katie Smithgall is very proud of her big brother. And her brother, Kyle, shares the sentiment.

A sophomore, Katie Smithgall is in her second season as the No. 1 singles player for the University girls tennis team. A senior, Kyle is in his third as the boys No. 1 singles player.

“It means a lot to me to have my brother as a practice partner,” Katie said. “Practicing with him makes me better. He makes me work harder.”

“I know I have someone around to hit with anytime,” Kyle said. “Katie is a good player and she has the potential to be even better if she chooses to.”

In fact, Kyle said, he credits his sister with helping him hone his game.

“She makes me work,” he said.

That work paid off last weekend, when Kyle won the No. 1 singles title at the 35th annual Tri-City Invitational tournament, knocking off Mead’s Edward Liu in the final.

“I’ve never won a tournament before, so this wins is especially sweet,” he said. “This is a tough tournament. There were two Idaho state champions entered and the defending boys No. 1 singles champion was there, as well.”

The 16-team tournament has always been one to keep an eye on heading into next week’s Inland Empire Invitational. Winning in the Tri-Cities goes a long way toward earning a seed into the IE.

“I don’t even want to think about that yet,” Kyle said. “It would be great to be seeded, for sure. But I’m not going to worry about that.”

Smithgall made sure to credit his finals opponent. Liu played “a monster of a semifinal” to reach the championship match and played for the title with little break.

“It was a really long match and he had to have been tired coming out of that match and having to play me,” he said.

The pair have not met this season in a Greater Spokane League match. Smithgall said he’s looking forward to the rematch and playing Liu on even ground.

U-H’s No. 1 singles player for the last three seasons, the senior said he did not play tennis until his freshman season. Watching the top singles players from around the league inspired him to take the game more seriously.

While he does not play the game all year, he works hard to improve his game and plans to take it to the next level.

“I’m going to go play at Spokane Falls next year and see where I can take my game,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”

Tri-City Invite

Spokane tennis teams performed well in the Tri-Cities.

Mead came home with the second-place trophy, 13 team points behind champion Timberline, which amassed 201.

U-Hi earned a fourth-place finish in the 16-team-tournament. Ferris finished 11th and Shadle Park 13th.

The U-Hi girls captured two individual titles.

Lexi Koenig won the No. 3 singles title while teammate Sonja Bertrand won the No. 4 singles title.

In addition to Smithgall’s win, Max Clark placed first at No. 4 singles.

“We’re getting better and better as a program,” Smithgall said. “I think the big thing we have working for us is our depth.”

The biggest challenge for this year’s squad has been replacing a large senior class that graduated last year. The same will be true for next season, Smithgall said. Half the team is made up of seniors.

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