SANDPOINT — As a freshman, Laney Search teamed with her older sister Kennedy to finish second in girls doubles at the state tennis tournament.
As a sophomore, she teamed with Khloe Kyllonen and advanced to the semis of the main draw in another strong showing.
Last year, the juniors returned again with high hopes, but lost a tough match to Bishop Kelly and never quite seemed to hit their rhythm.
So as seniors, they boast seven combined years of state experience, and know full well what to expect as they hope to make a run at a state tennis title, a rarity for any northern school.
“Staying consistent in the first couple matches, and hopefully being aggressive in the semis and finals,” described Search of the key to state. “To finish strong if we’re ahead. I think we can make it to the finals.”
The pair would love to get another crack at the team from Bishop Kelly, but will have to earn their chance, as the state tournament often features loaded doubles draws.
Search excels at ending points, via volley or overhead, using the skills that make her a college volleyball player well on the court. Kyllonen is strong from the baseline, and her consistency and placement complement her teammate well. The two have been arguably the best doubles team in North Idaho for three straight seasons.
Kyllonen would love to win a state title, as no SHS team or individual has claimed one yet this school season. The key is to focus on the point at hand and not look ahead.
“Get the fundamentals down, moving your feet, using more power. Stay in it throughout the whole match,” she said. “It’s really easy to come back. Consistency and place the ball. We can make it into the final.”
The Bulldogs will take eight players to state, and head coach Kent Anderson feels each is capable of winning a match in the main draw of the double-elimination, 16 team brackets. Should that happen, and a few players pick up some wins, a top-four trophy is a possibility.
Seniors Patrick Rockwell and Jacob Jackson have the tennis chops to win a couple matches, which has proven tough in years past as Boise-area teams often feature club players.
“The stars will have to line up. They’ll have to be extremely athletic,” admitted Anderson of the pair placing. “Play at the top of their game, over and over, every match.”
District champion sophomore Allura Livingston is the type of player that can throw a wrench into the girls singles draw, which often features a bunch of huge hitters. Anderson said her first time to state will be an eye opener and a great learning experience.
“She’s going to go up against girls that have been to state two or three years, that makes it difficult,” he said, noting Livingston has the defense and mental toughness to compete with anyone. “She’s an animal. She doesn’t like to lose.”
Senior Liz Parsley played in the mixed doubles at state last year, and knows exactly what her and new senior teammate Koen Connor are walking into. Parsley can sting low and powerful groundstrokes, which is a weapon in doubles, while Connor can keep points alive with his legs.
Juan Dorado, an exchange student from Spain, is the final Bulldog in action, earning the admiration of his coach this season by making it to state singles.
“He’s really new to the game, and suddenly finds himself qualifying at state,” said Anderson. “He’ll have his hands full with USTA section-rated players. He’s a fighter.”
Anderson is hoping this if finally the year Search and Kyllonen break through, as there is simply no substitute for experience.
“They’ve been through this before. Hopefully they go into this calm. Jitters has been the downfall in the past,” he said. “They’ve got all the tools. It’s just a matter of performing.
The 4A state tournament is today and Saturday in Boise.