Freshman Anna Dale spent next to no time on a tennis court before this school year.
The born-and-raised Juneauite has been more likely to be seen on the ice playing youth hockey since age 3, or the softball fields, where she’s played almost as long.
But last Sunday, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé rookie emerged as the top player at the Region V girls singles tournament. The Crimson Bears newcomer took down three teammates in the Southeast tournament featuring all-Juneau players. Dale won the quarterfinals over Katie Pikul 8-6, semifinals over Adelie McMillan 7-5, 6-3 and finals over Olivia Moore 6-4, 6-1.
The Empire caught up with the 14-year-old on Friday to talk about her surprise victory, the reaction she received from her older brother and more. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How did you get into playing tennis?
A: My brother, Jacob, played and he had a lot of fun. So I just thought I would try it and see if I liked it like he did.
Q: Despite having less experience than most of the girls on the team, you were able to win the Region V singles title. How do you feel you were able to do that?
A: The coaches are really good with working in different abilities. Even though I wasn’t really as strong at the beginning of the year I think they helped coach me. I also think I was practicing with people that were better than me and that also makes a difference.
Q: It looks like your closest match of the tournament came against Adelie in the second round. The first set was 6-4. What was that set like? It sounds like it was a pretty close one.
A: It was close. I went into the match just thinking, ‘This is going to be for fun. It’s going to be a learning experience.’ I think I played way more relaxed than before. After the first set, I realized that I might actually have a chance. I think I’ve played better when I was relaxed, especially in the second set. After I won the first set, I was really relaxed because I already won the first set so I only had to win one more.
Q: When you were able to win the second set and then you were able to win the finals, what was that moment like to be like, ‘Wow, I won the tournament.’?
A: I was surprised. I was kind of shocked. But it was good — I liked how all the games were hard matches. I like playing against people who are more difficult to play against.
Q: You mentioned how your older brother Jacob played tennis and you saw him play. Did your brothers congratulate you when they heard about the news?
A: Yeah, I think my mom told him and then I got a text from him. He was pretty funny about it. He was saying stuff like, ‘You’re (following) in my footsteps or something.’ I think he was a little surprised too.
Coming up next
The JDHS tennis team will compete in the state championship next weekend at the Alaska Club East in Anchorage.
Dale and JDHS junior and Netherlands exchange student Kevin Kooistra will compete in singles. JDHS sophomore Liam Penn and Thunder Mountain junior Adelie McMillan will play in mixed doubles. JDHS senior Olivia Moore and Thunder Mountain sophomore Jaymie Collman will play in the girls doubles and JDHS senior William Smoker and JDHS sophomore Will Rehfeldt will play in boys doubles.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.