When the 3A district tennis tournament opens Friday afternoon at Hanford High School, the Southridge girls will begin their quest for a third consecutive title.
The Suns, won the Mid-Columbia Conference regular-season title for the third year in a row at 7-0, are led by the doubles team of senior Sarah Morgan and junior Sofia Morison, who finished the season 16-0 with titles at the Inland Empire and Tri-City Invite.
“These kids have worked hard to get where they are and are proud to finish undefeated,” Southridge coach Chuck Hamaker-Teals said of his team. “Hanford, Kamiakin and Walla Walla are always tough. It’s never easy to go undefeated.”
The Suns also should get big points from the No. 2 doubles team of seniors Katie Brunson and Beth McKay, who also were 16-0 this season.
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“A district title is a possibility,” Hamaker-Teals said. “We have to have everyone contribute to win and that’s what we are shooting for.”
Action begins at 1 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday.
The top two girls singles and doubles team advance to regionals, while the top three boys singles and doubles teams will move on to regionals.
Hanford’s Sierra Troxel is the top-seeded singles player and is going for a third consecutive district title.
Troxel, who was third at state last year and finished with a 23-1 record, signed a letter-of-intent to play at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.
This season, she is undefeated in league play, and teamed up with Shane Sandlin to win the mixed doubles title at the Tri-City Invite last month.
Kennewick junior Chad McKenzie has the boys No. 1 singles seed at district. He was 6-4 in league play, but with several of the top players teaming up for doubles, McKenzie rose to the top.
“He’s come out of nowhere,” Lions coach Steve Buckingham said. “He was a late starter, but he has worked his butt off at the (Tri-City) Court Club.”
The Lions have a shot at picking up all three seeds to regionals, as fellow juniors Mitchell Way and Jared Bolt have come on strong toward the end of the season.
“That could be a possibility,” Buckingham said. “They have equal abilities as the other players. It will come down to who wants it more.”
The Lions also have a shot at picking up the district title, if their plan falls into place. The Kennewick boys won the regional title six years ago, but Buckingham said, “I can’t remember when, or if, we have won a boys district tile. My memory fails me.”
McKenzie, who will turn 17 on Wednesday, has only been playing competitive tennis for a couples of years, but he learned a lot by watching older brother Joel, and the sport has come naturally to him.
“I was really into football and basketball,” McKenzie said. “I didn’t even decide to play (tennis) until a week before the season started my freshman year. I gave the other two up for this.”
While Joel went to state in 2011, Chad is working to earn his first trip. He will have a big support group this weekend as family from Eugene will be there to cheer him on.
As a left-hander, McKenzie has an edge over his opponents. There aren’t many lefties in the Mid-Columbia Conference, and his serve can throw opposing players off their game.
“My serve is my main weapon,” he said. “And I’m a pretty good baseline player.”
McKenzie talks a good game, but he has his weaknesses as well.
“My anger and frustration get the better of me,” he said. “I need to control my emotions. I’m sure that is a factor for everyone.”