Panther tennis excels at Longview tournament

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Rain and snow mixed with frigid temperatures forced people indoors last weekend, but the Washougal High School girls tennis players finally got the opportunity to do what they love.

The Panthers gained valuable court time during the eighth R.A. Long Tennis Invitational Friday and Saturday, at the Mint Valley Racquet at Fitness Club in Longview.

“It was great for the girls to be on the courts and out of the wrestling room,” said head coach Linda Balholm. “They were getting better with every match. It was a great experience for all of them.”

Sophomore Christina Zack took second place in the single’s bracket for Washougal. After she beat Hockinson’s Emily Bozart 6-3, 7-5, Zack lost to Dominika Fackovcova of Centralia in the championship match.

“I am extremely proud of Christina,” Balholm said. “She went into the tournament with a pulled back muscle, and played strong and hard all the way through.”

Washougal senior Dani Larson bounced back from a tough loss in the first round. She defeated Megan Pelton of Mark Morris 6-2, 6-1.

“Dani mixed up her shots, started placing them in the right spots and moved her opponent all around the court,” Balholm said. “She was figuring out how to win. It was a really good match for her.”

The team of Megan Anderson and Sidney Hickey stepped up from junior varsity to win a match for the Panthers. Sophomore Amelia Quartermass also rose up from junior varsity, won a set and forced a 10-point tiebreaker before she lost.

“Tennis is such an emotional battle, as well as a physical one,” Balholm said. “For her to be able to feel that pressure of a tiebreaker and keep playing hard all the way to the end like she did was such a good experience for her.”

The seven-team tournament featured Hockinson, Mark Morris and R.A. Long from the 2A Greater St. Helens League, Centralia and Tumwater from the 2A district and Castle Rock from the 1A level.

“You learn more from every match you play,” Balholm said. “The more court time you can get, the better.”

Balholm said teams from Longview and Centralia have indoor facilities nearby where they can practice before and after school. Washougal doesn’t have that luxury. The closest indoor courts are about 20 miles away, at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver.

“The girls have such great attitudes. They’re not complaining one bit,” she said. “We go outside whenever we can.”