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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Girls tennis: Resurgent Gonzaga Prep sends five to State 4A tourney taking ‘one match at a time’

Gonzaga Prep girls tennis team is sending five players to state this week. From left, Juliet McFarland, Kate Palelek, Carli Walton, Marie Loroz and Savannah Crisp.  (Matt McFarlane/courtesy)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga Prep girls tennis is in the midst of one of the best – if not the best – seasons in Bullpups history.

After winning the Greater Spokane League with an undefeated record, then the District 8 4A tournament, G-Prep won regionals last weekend, sending five girls to the State 4A tournament which begins on Friday at The Pacific Clinic and Kamiakin High School, both in Kennewick.

It is the first state tournament for tennis since before the pandemic.

Competing for G-Prep in singles is junior Juliet McFarland, who won regionals. The two doubles teams are juniors Kate Palelek and Carli Walton – regional winners – and seniors Savannah Crisp and Marie Loroz, who took second to Palelek and Walton at regionals.

“We’re super excited,” McFarland said. “It’s really fun since we haven’t really had a normal year. So it’s like our first chance to go and compete at state.”

Before the season began, second-year coach Jason Chapman expressed the goals he envisioned.

But after first mentioning them, he rarely brought them up throughout the season, instead letting the girls focus on their matches one at a time.

“I have high expectations for my girls, for myself, for the team,” Chapman said. “The girls knew the expectations, but I didn’t talk about them a lot, I think that really helped not putting too much pressure on them.”

The strategy worked as the Bullpups are preparing to make a splash in the state tournament. Chapman is continuing his messaging this week leading up the decisive matches of the season.

After beating University on April 19, which Chapman called the most difficult league match of the season, the GSL race appeared to be in the Bullpups’ grasp.

It had been 12 years since G-Prep last won the GSL, districts or really anything, McFarland said.

“Even some of the Tri-Cities schools down there (at regionals) commented on it like, ‘Wow, G-Prep hasn’t been down here a long time,’ ” she said.

With the league title secured, Chapman said G-Prep played its best tennis of the season at the district tournament and continued that theme at the regional.

“The cool thing about that is I didn’t talk to them about who they’re playing,” Chapman said. “I didn’t give them anything to worry about, just go play tennis one point at a time, basically one match at a time. So I think that really helps not having them look too far in the future, sticking at one tournament at a time.”

Chapman, who is in his second year after 21 seasons at Bellevue College, won the GSL Coach of the Year award this season.

“He’s been really helpful and he just is a really great coach with all of his experience with 20 years of coaching college,” McFarland said. “It’s really cool how he can kind of bring that environment to us.”

Chapman returned home last year – he grew up in Spokane and attended Eastern Washington – to settle down after the grueling college schedule to spend more time with his wife and 8-year-old daughter.

“I wouldn’t say it’s easier (to coach high school), but a lot more fun, a lot less stress for me to just have the girls that I get and work with … and really teach them good strategies and how to win,” he said.

The Bullpups hit the road Thursday afternoon with the first matches of Friday scheduled for 8:30 a.m. for singles and 10 a.m. for doubles.

McFarland faces off against Grace Tan of Redmond HS.

Crisp and Loroz battle Alyssa Chinn and Karen Lu from Inglemoor, and Palelek and Walton will play Sophia Manole and Valerie Wang of Newport (Bellevue).

As Monday rolled around and Chapman was planning the practice schedule for the week, he repeated the foundational mantra of one point at a time.

Once the state attendees were locked in, he drew up a practice schedule on the team whiteboard on the tennis courts, bumping up practices and turning up the intensity.

Chapman appreciates the willingness of his girls to learn and grow as players on a day-to-day basis, contrasting the style with some college players in the past.

“I really love it,” he said. “I love the girls. I love how they listen to me and how they work hard and we’re all working toward the same goal. And it’s an individual sport, basically, so for them to work together as a team and go play matches as individuals, it’s a cool, it’s a cool thing. I have a lot of fun. I really enjoy it.”

Expect to see more of the Bullpups in the coming seasons as McFarland believes the groundwork is set for future success.

Only three seniors are on the roster, and McFarland said the new freshmen coming in will be ready to compete for spots.

“I think we can really continue to just have a super strong team, especially with coach Jason, because last year was our first year together, and we were like No. 2 in the GSL,” McFarland said. “I think we can really continue to keep this up.”