If Sarah Morgan’s senior year of high school is any indication of the what the future holds, the sky’s the limit for the recent Southridge High School graduate.
Morgan, one of three class valedictorians, also had quite the run on the tennis courts this spring as she and doubles partner Sofia Morrison finished with a 23-1 record, were third at the 3A state tournament and helped the Suns to a third-place finish in the team standings.
Though they both are consummate team players, they were singled out as the Tri-City Herald’s All-Area girls players of the year.
Richland’s Travis Zuroske was named the boys player of the year, while Southridge girls coach Chuck Hamaker-Teals was named the top coach.
“I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Morgan said. “Sofia and I had a great run. It’s good to see the chemistry we have had after two years, how much better we move together. She is one of my greatest friends. And third as a team was exciting. It was a team effort.”
Morrison, a junior, will return next season for the Suns, but said it will be hard to match this season.
“This year, compared to last year, it’s amazing how much better we were,” Morrison said. “This last year together, we hit more on our own, and we improved individually as players and it showed. The majority of our matches weren’t intense battles, mostly cruising. We were going into matches confident we could win. It was just a matter of how many game we might drop.”
Though both Morgan and Morrison played singles most of the season, they teamed up for doubles for tournaments and the postseason. They won the Inland Empire and the Tri-City Invite titles this spring.
Until they ran into twins Lydia and Gabrielle Venditti from Mercer Island in the state semifinals, they had had a pretty easy go of things.
“We didn’t have much intense competition,” Morrison said. “Mercer Island is a really good team. We hit shots that usually were winners and they were coming back. It was a fun match. The type of tennis we love to play and want to play.”
Morgan is off to BYU this fall but does not know how much tennis will be a part of her plans.
“I’d love to see where the opportunities lead me,” Morgan said. “I’d like to pursue that, or club tennis there. I will have to see what BYU is like. It’s weird to think I won’t have the opportunity to play all the time. I need to make the effort to keep playing.”
Hamaker-Teals led the Suns to their third consecutive regular-season and district titles, and added the regional title as well, seeing two of his three doubles team advance to state.
“It’s both rewarding and exciting to see these girls year after year get better,” Hamaker-Teals said. “They dedicate themselves to getting better and learning the game. They are about winning and they care about pride for their school. We had girls play matches for two hours and never bat an eye. We had girls who waited in the wind and the rain for their teammates to get done and never complain. It’s was a pleasure to coach them.”
And the girls enjoyed working with Hamaker-Teals.
“We work with Rob Knox and at the club (Tri-City Court Club), but there is not a day of practice where Teals isn’t out on the court, hitting balls with us,” Morgan said. “My mom (Chrissy) always jokes that everyday at practice is like a private lesson. We all kind of have our own strokes and whatever. He is good at picking out what your game needs and analyzing things to help your game.”
Zuroske was the top singles player all season in the Mid-Columbia Conference. But after a tough go of singles at state last year, he opted to play doubles with junior Zach Fisher during the postseason.
Zuroske and Fisher finished third at the 4A tournament, losing a close three-setter in the semifinals.
“It was a great year,” said Zuroske, who was undefeated in singles play. “I had a great singles runs in regular season and we had a great postseason run. We worked hard all year. It all kind of came together in our state run.”
With Fisher losing his partner to graduation last year, Zuroske found a solid player to team up with.
“I thought Zach and I would make a good team and it paid off,” Zuroske said.
Zuroske will head to the University of California, San Diego this fall. He will major in economics, but is unsure if he will play tennis for the Tritons.
“I might walk on,” he said. “I went down and visited. It is a great school.”
Girls First Team
Sierra Troxel, sr., Hanford
Stephanie Buckingham, jr., Kennewick
Sarah Morgan, sr., and Sofia Morrison, jr., Southridge
Bailee Sanderson, soph. and Shyler Sullivan fr., Southridge
Girls Second Team
Megan Elliott, sr., Kiona-Benton
An Wang, fr., Hanford
Katie Brunson, sr., and Beth McKay, sr., Southridge
Allison Mehn, sr., and Rachel Schueller sr., Walla Walla
Boys First Team
Chad McKenzie, jr., Kennewick
Ruslan Kuznetsov, sr., Walla Walla
Zach Fisher, jr., and Travis Zuroske, sr., Richland
Shane Sandlin, sr., and Kevin Sands, sr., Hanford
Boys Second Team
Greg Guicci, sr., Richland
Connor Christensen, jr., Walla Walla
Ben Welch, jr., and Matt Inman, soph., Kamiakin
Quinten Dicken, sr., and Darko Stankovic jr., Hanford