The rivalry between South Whidbey and Coupeville just got turned up a notch.
For years the Wolves and Friday Harbor were the only 1A schools with tennis programs in District 1, and Coupeville has dominated the series recently. Tradition-rich South Whidbey, with a dip in enrollment, drops from 2A and joins them this year.
And while Coupeville has had its way with Friday Harbor, it has never beaten South Whidbey in a long series of nonleague matches in CHS coach Ken Stange’s eight years at a the helm.
Stange said, “While South Whidbey is always difficult competition, I’m hoping the raising of the bar will inspire us to work that much harder. I welcome the challenge.”
On the individual front, the addition of South Whidbey players will also make it more difficult for Coupeville senior Nathan Lamb to capture his fourth straight district title. As a freshman and sophomore, Lamb earned the district doubles crown; last year he was singles champion.
He returns this season in the No. 1 singles slot for the Wolves.
The team’s only other senior, Ben Wehrman, finished third in district in singles in 2011.
“Nathan and Ben were solid in singles last season and will continue to do so,” Stange said.
Also returning is sophomore Aaron Curtin, who placed second in district doubles with then-senior Taku Yamauchi.
Other returnees are juniors Jason Knoll, Brandon Kelley, Brian Norris, Jake McCormick, Cameron Boyd-Eck and Konrad Borden.
Newcomers include junior Ben Etzell and freshmen Dawson d’Almeida, Sebastian Davis, Zane Bundy, Loren Nelson, Connor McCormick, Shane Squire and Loren Nelson.
“I expect my seasoned players,” Stange said, “to augment their games while the newbies learn the basics and turn from beginners to intermediate players.”
The team’s strength, according to Stange, is its depth, thanks to “quite a few athletic newcomers.”
He added, “Many of them will develop into fine players if they keep at it. I’ve also got some returning players to keep us competitive in singles.”
Stange said the team’s inexperience could be a problem and no “truly dominant doubles team” has emerged.
Stange said his team may take some “beatings from the private schools” but it will help the Wolves “learn better tennis.”
Among his goals, Stange looks to advance at least one singles player and one doubles team to quad-district: “We will just have to get by some feisty Falcons and Wolverines.”
Coupeville starts the season with Friday Harbor at 3 p.m. in Coupeville Friday, Sept. 7.