Angela Schuster is nice — everyone says so — but she acknowledges that “something different” happens at the end of a close tennis match.
“I just want to win so bad that something clicks in my head,” said the Timberline sophomore.
Schuster, who outlasted talented sophomore Joyce Park of Gig Harbor at No. 1 singles, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, in a Narrows League 4A match, is a quiet assassin.
“She couldn’t be nicer,” said Schuster’s coach, Kristine Mosher, “so unassuming.”
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Mosher recalled a recent school day when Schuster stopped into her coach’s math classroom at Timberline to ask a question, and another person in the room, when informed who the visitor was, said, “THAT’s your star tennis player?”
“You see her, she’s just a little thing,” Mosher said. “She becomes another person (on the court) — the athlete, the competitive athlete.”
On Tuesday, Schuster won the first set over Park. She fell behind 4-1 in the second set, rallied to get to 4-3, then Park rode two service breaks to take the set. In the decisive third set, Schuster put the hammer down to win a match against an opponent she knows well — and had never before beaten in a handful of tries, including last school season when both players were freshmen.
“I felt pretty determined to win,” Schuster said.
The victory assured Schuster, undefeated this year through the high school regular season, of the No. 1 singles seed to the Narrows League tournament on May 12 and May 14 at Spanaway’s Sprinker Recreation Center. The West Central District tournament is May 20-21 at the Boeing Tennis Center in Kent.
Park, who finished fourth last season at the Class 4A state tournament, will be seeded third at leagues, and Ali Topp of Olympia, who fell to Schuster but defeated Park this season, will be the second seed.
Schuster grew up watching her older brothers, Michael and David Schuster, play tennis for North Thurston. Her father played tennis at the University of Washington.
Last year at state, Angela Schuster lost her first match — to the eventual champion, Skyview senior Sammi Hampton — then won the rest of her matches (including a win over Topp) to place fifth.
Schuster said that playing NCAA Division I tennis is “definitely one of my goals,” but in the nearer term she’d like to improve on her state performance.
To that end, she says she’s grown as a player since last season.
“I think I got a lot better physically,” Schuster said. “I move around the court better.”
Mosher said Schuster is practicing her inside-out forehand, and working hard on her serve in search of more power and better placement.
Both coach and athlete say Schuster’s mental game is better than ever.
“She just keeps grinding, keeps battling,” Mosher said. “I think that’s just her mentality.”
Schuster said, “Against the better players, I play better, I believe.”
At state, she knows, good players will be out there, players such as Vivian Glozman of Newport High, who finished second to Hampton as a freshman last spring.
And players such as Park, whom she knows well.
Mosher said she enjoyed seeing the two players, after their nearly three-hour match on Tuesday, chatting together like old friends.
“Joyce is really nice,” Schuster said, “but I really wanted to beat her.”