Reigning champs look to repeat

Blend of upper, lower classmen leads Wolves into promising 2008 season

Coach Mark Textor doesn’t have to look far and wide across the tennis courts for leadership.

He’s got five seniors ready and willing to lead.

With all but two players back from a strong 2007-2008 campaign, the Wolves feature a roster not only experienced and talented but deep in nearly every grade level. Junior Reed Gunstone is Sequim’s top threat while sophomores Mallory Maloney, Michael Lee and David Richards are close behind. Freshmen Waylon Lam and Andrew Gunstone figure to battle for starting varsity spots.

And then there are the seniors Textor points to: Ethan Gill, Robbie Blenk, Alex Skinner, Greg Robinson and Alex Lamb each have plenty of court experience but also are willing to put in extra time and show underclassmen how to improve.

"(These are) excellent role models for players on our team," Textor says, watching several of them get in extra hitting practice after a midweek practice is finished. "They are going to be so successful in whatever they do. They are great students … (and) they set a great example for hard work and responsibility."

Last season, underclassmen Maloney and Reed Gunstone parlayed the team’s success, a 12-2 mark and hard-fought Olympic League title, into a berth at the class 2A state tournament, where they managed a 1-2 record.

Textor lauded the two and several other players for putting in a lot of court time during the offseason, including Lee and Richards.

"That’s how you have a good team," Textor said. "We talk a lot about being court rats."

That persistence in practice shows, as Sequim’s boys have accumulated a ridiculous 84-7 record since the 2001-2002 season.

With a change to team scoring last season, teams get three singles matches and four doubles team matches (as opposed to two singles and three doubles), opening up three more varsity spots.

But getting court time for Sequim may not be easy. That’s why Textor holds players to a singles ladder system. They can challenge players above them and earn a spot on varsity rather than deferring to an upperclassman, with no set limit on how many times a player may challenge another.

Textor said all his players are to play singles and doubles matches this season.

Sequim’s biggest roadblock to defending their league crown likely comes from the Poulsbo area from one of two teams: Kingston, a 2A Olympic League foe the Wolves edged 4-3 twice in 2007, and North Kitsap’s Vikings, a strong 4A program last season that joins the Olympic League as a 3A team. (The Vikings replace 2006 Olympic League champion Peninsula Seahawks, who joined the South Puget Sound League this fall.)

Whether the Wolves are able to take league again or not, Textor, a tennis coaching veteran of 24 years, said the goal for his players remains the same: Getting better, step by step.

"We’re just going to work real hard on improving our games," he said. "There may be enough talent on this team that we may challenge for a league title."

Sequim High School boys tennis

• 2007 record: 12-2, one doubles team to state 2A tourney

• Head coach: Mark Textor (second year)

• Top returners: Reed Gunstone, Mallory Maloney, David Richards, Michael Lee, Greg Robinson, Alex Lamb, Alex Skinner, Robbie Blenk, Ethan Gill

• Top newcomers: Waylon Lam, Andrew Gunstone

• Outlook: Sequim rarely has a down year in any tennis season, and this one’s no exception: solid leaders, a good mix of experience and youth and a coach that already has one state team title to his credit, figure the Wolves to battle North Kitsap for the league title, and more than one doubles team to state next spring.

• Key dates: Sept. 15 vs. Kingston, Sept. 19 vs. North Kitsap, Sept. 24 vs. Bremerton, Oct. 3 vs. Klahowya, May 18 at class 2A district tournament