Juneau’s high school tennis team rounded out another successful season with both top team performance and a star player taking home a championship title at the Alaska High School Tennis Championship in Anchorage this past weekend.
Eight tennis players from the Juneau-Douglas High School tennis team — consisting of students from both JDHS and Thunder Mountain High school — represented Southeast Alaska at this year’s state championship and earned a tie for third place as a team with senior Katie Pikul earning the bulk of the team’s points after winning the girls’ singles championship, a feat which hasn’t been done by a Juneau player in over a decade.
Juneau’s mixed doubles team also brought their A-game team with duo Anna Dale and Brendan West snagging third place in the event. West Anchorage High School won the team championship, which is the team’s 10th overall win since the tournament was established in 2007.
Coach Annie Kincheloe said she was proud of how the team performed and represented Southeast Alaska at the tournament over the weekend. She said she is especially proud of Pikul and how hard she worked this year to earn the win after coming in third last year.
“It’s a pretty big deal because we have not had a girl or boy win the singles in around 15 years,” she said. “She worked very very hard.”
Kincheloe said she was nervous at first when Pikul lost her initial match, but that didn’t last long because Pikul was able to make her way back up and win every match after that, including the two final matches against the other top competitor.
“We were very proud of Katie for doing this,” she said. “ She worked really hard — it was great.”
Pikul said during her first match “everything isn’t quite working” and she started to panic and lose focus and that’s what led to her losing the match. But, after that, she said things started to fall back into place.
“I knew I could do it, it just wasn’t clicking at first,” she said. From there she said she leaned on all the practice she had done and used her fitness to her advantage during the last two rounds by making the competition run around a lot which ultimately led to their defeat.
Pikul said she was super happy to win the title after a “really long journey” to get there.
“I’m thrilled to end it with a state championship, that was always my goal — we spent the whole year preparing for that,” she said. “While it’s really exciting, it’s also really sad because it’s the end of tennis for high school.”
Pikul said she hopes to continue playing tennis competitively in college either on a club team or for the college. She is currently undecided about where she plans to go but intends to make a decision soon.
Kincheloe said looking toward the future, she hopes to continue to find new creative ways to prepare her team for competition as it can be difficult due to the lack of other high school tennis teams here in Southeast Alaska.
“We try to get them as much experience as we can by playing with adults in the community, and doing a fundraiser tournament,” she said. “We’re at a disadvantage because we don’t have that competition, but we try to give as much as we can.
This year the team totaled 24 players but will be saying goodbye to six graduating seniors. Kincheloe said she is excited about next year’s season and said the team will be looking to fill in the spots that the seniors will be leaving.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.