Katelyn Orchard was certain she was going to become the next Mia Hamm.
After all, the Olympia High School junior was in a family where soccer, as well as baseball and basketball, were the sports of choice.
Then, in 2004, she and her family moved into their current Olympia home, which featured a large, tempting feature: a backyard tennis court. And although no one in the family played tennis at the time, they soon started. It wasn’t long before a soccer ball was replaced by a tennis racket.
“We figured we have a tennis court, why don’t we play tennis?” Orchard said. “Me, my mom and my dad fell in love with the sport. I was really into soccer, but I’m really glad I made that decision.”
Since then, the Bears’ No. 1 singles player’s schedule has been jam-packed with tennis. Orchard is currently ranked eighth in the state and No. 13 in the Northwest in her graduating class.
As a sophomore, she finished fifth at the district tournament and advanced to the Class 4A state tournament, finishing with one win and two losses. Participating at state was an eye-opener for Orchard.
All three of her matches took place on the first day, and her final match against Central Valley’s Leslie Ho went three sets and didn’t end until after 11 p.m. Orchard said her stamina wasn’t there, especially in the three-set match that she lost to Ho, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“I didn’t have the endurance to hold out,” Orchard said.
A talk with eventual state champion Meghan Cassens of Decatur convinced Orchard she needed to become quicker and stronger if she wanted become one of the state’s elite players.
Orchard hired a personal trainer in addition to taking private tennis lessons. She already has seen improvement in her game because of the conditioning and weightlifting.
“I think I’m faster,” Orchard said. “I have that endurance so if I play another third set at state, I will be stronger.”
Olympia coach Margie Reed called Orchard a “very consistent” player. Her aggressive play, top-notch serves and range from baseline to net keeps most opponents on their toes.
“She does like the baseline,” Reed said. “She does well at the net, too. When she does come in, she’s effective.”
Orchard has helped the Bears win back-to-back Narrows League titles, and with another strong team, Olympia hopes to make it three in a row.
In addition to Orchard, the Bears return No. 2 singles player, sophomore Alli Bautista, who came on strong in the postseason last year. It’s also a reunion for the Bears’ No. 1 doubles team of seniors Bailey Kilmer and Annie Sing.
The pair was Olympia’s No. 1 doubles team two years ago when they were sophomores. Sing did not turn out for tennis last year, choosing, instead, to concentrate on volleyball.
“They are going to be a force to reckon with,” Orchard said. “They want to make it far this year.”
2011 PREP GIRLS TENNIS OUTLOOK
Coach: Tom Alongi (third year).
Last season: 11-2 overall.
Key returnees: Lauren McCann, so., singles; Natalie Nicholson, sr., doubles; Nicole Lawton, sr., doubles; Joyce Le, sr., singles/doubles; Jessie Branch, sr., singles; Emily Hauge, sr., doubles; Lindsay Gubbe, sr., doubles; Alley Narez, sr., doubles; Lynnea Pearson, sr., doubles.
Top newcomers: Caitlin Hartman, fr.; Julia Stohr, jr.; Sooyoun Park, fr.; Ellen Short, fr.
Coach’s outlook: “We have many returning players from last season, and have some talented incoming girls. We finished high in 2010, so I believe we will have a successful 2011 season. Depth will be key to success.”
Coach: Debra Keahey (first year).
Last season: 7-5 overall.
Key returnees: Emmalee Baker, sr., singles; Megan Kerner, jr., doubles; Madison Creel, jr., doubles; Megan Helm, jr.; Carlei Fisher, jr.
Top newcomers: McKailey Fast, fr.; Anna Scheimeier, fr.; Lillian Albright, fr.
Coach’s outlook: “Our team lost a lot of seniors last year, so this is a rebuilding year. We have a great group of tennis players this year who are dedicated to building this program.”
Coach: Jack State (26th year).
Last season: 12-3 overall.
Key returnees: Relie Slattery, jr., singles/doubles; Megan O’Hara, sr., singles/doubles; Aleassa Wren, jr., singles/doubles; Angie Magnuson, jr., doubles; Kaleen Davis, sr., doubles; Nicole Beck, jr., singles.
Coach’s outlook: “We feel that we will be strong at first singles and first doubles. We should also be able to field pretty strong teams at both second and third doubles.”
NORTH THURSTON RAMS
Coach: Cheri Campbell (first year).
Key returnees: Mary McCarty, sr., singles; JoonHae Ahn, sr., singles/doubles; Jamie Zerr, sr., singles.
Top newcomers: Sydney Smith, fr., singles; Arielle Mussman, jr., doubles; Julianne Campbell, sr., doubles.
Coach’s outlook: “This season will be one of ups and downs as well as growth. But as the season progresses, I predict NTHS will submit lineups of competitive tennis players and athletic match play.”
NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN NAVIGATORS
Coach: Gloria Heinze (third year).
Key returnees: Carlie Woodside, Valerie Huynh, Erin Meier, Brooke Bredeson, Ji Yon Kim.
Top newcomers: Gabriela Heinze, fr., singles; Ariana Rivera, so., singles/doubles; Joosil Kim, jr., doubles; Jessica Thomas, so., singles/doubles.
Coach’s outlook: “We have some up-and-coming strong players. It’s never fun to lose seniors that are solid, but I am optimistic with the team we have and look forward to some challenging matches.”
Coach: Margie Reed (14th year).
Last season: 9-0, won Narrows League title
Key returnees: Katelyn Orchard, jr., singles; Bailey Kilmer, sr., doubles; Annie Sing, sr., doubles; Gemma Robinson, so., doubles; Mia Ryckman, so., singles; Alli Bautista, so., singles.
Top newcomers: Cathryn Zhang, fr.; Sami Pletsch, so.; Maddie Johnson, jr.; Brenda Chan, sr.
Coach’s outlook: “I think we’re pretty strong. We have returning No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles teams.”
RIVER RIDGE HAWKS
Coach: Brenda Lash (16th year).
Key returnees: Michelle Lye, sr., singles; Kristine Papa, sr., singles; Minji Lye, so., doubles; Sierrah Hinds, so., doubles; Emily Diggs, jr., doubles.
Coach’s outlook: “We would like to get as many players to districts as possible.”
Coach: John Perry (21st year).
Key returnees: Allison Hunter, jr.; Hannah Gordon, sr.; Madison Moran, jr.
Coach’s outlook: “We are very young, but hopefully our veterans will be strong enough to earn us a few wins.”
Coach: Andrew Bowerly (third year).
Last season: 15-0 overall, placed third at state.
Key returnees: Kirsten Jorgensen, jr., singles; Shelby Frasl, jr., singles; Janelle Young, jr., doubles; Kelli Neer, jr., doubles.
Top newcomers: Katy Forest, jr., doubles; Emily Mankowski, jr., doubles; Tailar Kennedy, sr., singles.
Coach’s outlook: “The team looks to maintain the level it has been pushing itself to achieve the past two years. The girls’ sights are set on getting back to state competition and improving on their third-place finish.”
Coach: Jim Click (18th year).
Last season: 12-0, EvCo champions.
Key returnees: Olivia Koelsch, jr., singles; Rachel Howard, so., singles; Emily Barclift, so., doubles; McKenzie Click, so., doubles; Julia Graham, so, doubles.
Coach’s outlook: “It should be a good season with many returning strong, younger players. We should be one of the stronger teams in our league this year, but maybe not as strong as last year. Hoping to make it back to (the) state tournament.”
Coach: Mike McClellan (18th year).
Last season: 5-7 overall.
Key returnees: Emma Leimback, sr.; Taegan Foster, sr.; Sarah Moore, jr.
Coach’s outlook: “We are in a rebuilding year as far as the varsity goes, but hope to see significant improvement from some of our younger and new players. We just plan to compete and grow with experience.”
Meg Wochnick, staff writer
Team information submitted by participating coaches