The Chewelah tennis and softball teams were the first of the spring sports teams to open the spring sports seasons. On Monday, the Cougar tennis team hosted Medical Lake on the only dry playing surface to be found at the high school. At the same time, the Lady Cougar softball team hosted Springdale.
With 34 players turning out for tennis this spring, there is no extra space to practice on the high school courts.
“We have an even split of 17 boys and 17 girls this year,” said Coach Denise Smith, “and we are starting the season with a bang. We have six straight matches, starting with Medical Lake last Monday.
“We scheduled Medical Lake because they will be in our league next year. We also scheduled a couple of class-B teams before we begin our Northeast A League schedule, because we will be playing our post-season again with the B’s.”
The Cougar boys hope to successfully defend their district title. With league doubles MVPs Tyler Monasmith and David Vilchiz returning to the court, Chewelah will be the team to beat.
“There is currently a fight for our number two boys doubles team,” said Coach Smith. “Six boys are battling, and the way it looks right now, that battle is going to last for a long time. We haven’t been out on the court long enough to settle it yet. Most of our practice time has been up in Johnstone’s home gym.”
Jeff Peterson begins this season as Chewelah’s number one singles player. Ben Johnstone is number two, and Brady Flannigan is number three. The trio is experienced and all have the potential to be in the mix for post-season play.
The strength of the Lady Cougars will be in its doubles teams. Going into the season the number one doubles team is Becka Kenney and Bethany Kofmehl. The two will be challenged throughout the spring by the athletic duo of Ryann Richmond and Kelly Riese, who are currently the number two doubles team.
“They will have a tough road to district play, because there are a lot of good girls’ doubles teams in the league this year,” said Smith.
Chewelah’s girls’ singles players are very young, so they will have to develop as the season plays out. Currently, Naomi Miller is the number one singles player. Kayleigh Hanson is number two, and Tenika Smith is number three.
With only two seniors returning to the team this spring, the Lady Cougars are young.
“This is an interesting group,” said Coach Tom Skok. “We will be a young team. Lavonne Smith and Kathy Trudeau are the only two returning seniors out of 24 girls we have turning out. We do have several sophomores who have a year of experience, and some of them will be playing at the varsity level.”
It appears that Katelyn Garner has earned the role as the team’s starting pitcher. Hailey Carnline and Trudeau will also be pitching for the Lady Cougars, especially on days when they play a doubleheader.
Trudeau and Carnline will also be sharing time at first base when they are not pitching. Two sophomores, Hannah Grimm and Nikki Curtis, will also be playing in the infield. Grimm is Chewelah’s probable starter at second base, and Curtis is the leading candidate for third base. Curtis is also an experienced catcher and a confident hitter.
At shortstop is Mikaela Hopkins, a veteran junior with speed and mobility who should anchor the Cougar infield.
Chewelah should be solid in the outfield with Shylo Schneider in leftfield, Megan Robertson in centerfield, and Atasha Edwards in rightfield. All are veteran players.
The Cougars will play two games at home this week against Kettle Falls on Friday and Omak on Saturday. Both are single games.
While Colville, Lakeside, and Riverside were competing in the West Valley Invitational on Saturday, the Cougar track team was still waiting for their mud bog track to dry out.
“Monday was the first day the entire team got together to practice at our track,” said Coach Pat Kostecka. “It was good to finally have everyone together in the same place, but there was not much our runners and hurdlers could do out there.
“The only place dry enough to run on is the southwest corner of the track. The rest is muddy and has one and a half-inch foot prints all over it where people have walked on it. On the southeast, there is a ditch across the track that is 10 feet long, over a foot wide, and about a foot deep that was dug by runoff coming off the football field.”
“And, there is still so much water on the discus area that the throwers have to wade through two inches of water to retrieve a discus. So, the kids are out there throwing with wet feet every night.”
“Like I said earlier, we’ll be lucky to get on the track by the end of spring break. It won’t be until then that we will even get on it to drag it smooth. That will put us six weeks behind everyone else in our league.”
The Cougars open their track season on Thursday at Colville.
In the photo: Senior David Vilchiz keeps his eye on the ball against Medical Lake in a tough doubles match with partner Tyler Monasmith against Medical Lake. Kim Johnstone photo
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff