Relax, focus, play smart and never give up.
Tennis strategy or life skills? Lake Washington High coach John Stalker says those four keys to success can equally apply to someone who’s swinging a racquet or doing their day-to-day thing.
“Things happen, and you apply that to your life and I think it will be just fine,” said Stalker, who philosophized while his Kangs took on Juanita in a girls tennis match on April 10 at LW. The Kangs won, 7-0, and upped their record to 3-0 in league and 4-0 overall while the Rebels dropped to 0-3 in league and 2-3 overall.
“We have some skilled players and they’re very determined players, really good attitude,” Stalker added. This is Stalker’s first full year as the Kang varsity head coach after spending 10 years as the junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach.
This is Liz Currey’s first year coaching at Juanita after holding the reins for 10 years at Lynnwood and Stanwood high schools and the Brighton School in Mountlake Terrace.
Her tennis philosophy is try your best, move your feet and play smart, which the Rebel girls have grasped onto each day.
“They are wonderful, they are positive, they work really hard. They’re very coachable and they’re really supportive of each other,” said Currey, noting that the resilient girls travel across town to LW to practice on the Kangs’ lower courts because construction is in full swing at Juanita. “(It) shows how it doesn’t even matter to these girls ‘cause they just wanna be here and play, which is really cool.”
Freshman Charlize Yeh, who leads the LW squad at No. 1 singles, unleashes a power game and never gives up during matches, according to Stalker.
“I’ve had a lot of team support and coach Stalker is amazing,” said Yeh, adding that her forehand is tops in her arsenal: “I use that a lot as my main weapon on the court.”
Locked into the No. 1 spot, Yeh doesn’t feel much stress because her fellow Kangs are there for her. “I’m just thinking to have fun because high school is a really fun time and I love playing these matches,” she said.
Other solid LW players are sophomore Sasha Chudin at No. 2 singles, sophomore lefty Saba Tabai at No. 3 singles and doubles sophomores Kate Cocales, Alyah Hanson and Nicole Carpenter and senior Grace Allenstein.
Cocales, who also plays singles, paired up with Hanson against Juanita. Last year, the duo competed together in doubles at the KingCo tournament and they may do so again this time out.
Hanson said that crucial aspects of a stellar doubles team are “staying confident and communication. She does a good job of keeping me motivated.”
Against Juanita, the girls smacked high fives throughout the entire match, whether they won a point or not.
“We’re really good friends, so we’re comfortable with each other. It’s good to pump each other up and not have a negative attitude,” Cocales added.
On the Juanita side, junior Grace Wang grips the No. 1 singles spot and displays mental and physical strength, Currey said.
“I’m a junior, so it’s been pretty stressful at school. Tennis-wise, it’s just been really fun this year so far,” said Wang, who also plays at Central Park Tennis Club in Kirkland.
Wang enjoys getting caught up in the intense matches with her opponents. She’s focused on “just being mentally stable, being calm, not really putting too much pressure on myself, ‘cause I tend to do that sometimes.”
Other top Juanita players include No. 2 and No. 3 singles players Luisa Gomez, a freshman, and Angela Lothian, a junior, and doubles players Emily Do and Maggie Jiang, who are both juniors.
Do has been part of the Rebel squad for three years and began playing the sport in sixth grade. She echoed the LW girls’ assessment of doubles success, noting that communication and teamwork are paramount when the ball is in play.
The Rebels have bonded off the court, as well, when driving to and from LW for practices.
“Most of us carpool, we’ve gotten really close after all that commuting. The group of girls is small, so we all know each other and we’re all really good friends,” Do said.