Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor boys tennis young talent to help Tides with co-captains by their side

Gig Harbor’s tennis squad may not always compete on the same court, but there’s a unique in-game policy that keeps the entire team together throughout the match.

Everyone stays to watch their teammates, regardless of whether they’re finished with their matchup.

“I think that allows the team to support each other,” senior co-captain Boone Jarvis said. “You’re more of a team when you’re supporting your fellow teammates. You may not be on the same court, but they’re your friends and they’re your teammates. I think that’s really important.”

Working and growing together represents an ongoing goal for the Tides in a sport where individual competitions are often.

Meeting that goal? Coach Lorrie Wood sees a team hungry for improvement.

“They can’t get enough of tennis,” Wood said. “They love being out on the courts. They love practicing hard and we push them hard.”

A love for the game likely factored into Gig Harbor’s undefeated season just a year ago. But that eagerness and enthusiasm now may be more of a necessity for the Tides, who lost thirteen players over the offseason.

Wood says the varsity openings give younger players a chance to compete at the highest level.

“We’ve got a lot of really good talent we’re rebuilding with,” Wood said. “They’re showing themselves to be really hard workers at practice.”

Hunter Austin, senior co-captain of the Tides, praised the development of his teammates in their new roles. It’s easy to tell he’s quite proud of what he’s seen.

“Even if it’s just a warmup, we’re always giving our 100 percent,” Austin said. “I see that with a lot of our players. They all have that fighting spirit and they want to give their opponent one more ball to hit. And as a captain and senior on the team, that’s something I’m really proud of.”

So how can the Tides build on such a successful season the year before?

“Take one match at a time,” Austin said. “Enjoy each match and enjoy the wins. We have a really special team this season.”

There’s one match in particular the Tides may enjoy more than others. And to nobody’s surprise, it’s the crosstown matchup with Peninsula — the local rival.

“The team might want it a little more when we play Peninsula,” Jarvis said. “These are people we know because we’ve met them through other activities. It’s a friendlier match, but also one that we really want to win.”

It’s a mix of friendliness and competitiveness that adds meaning to the Gig Harbor-Peninsula rivalry, according to Austin.

“It’s like the Fish Bowl for tennis whenever we play them.”

And competing against friends?

“We take it very seriously, but [the match] also ends up being very enjoyable,” Wood said. “My players want to be challenged. The difficult matches — they look forward to that.”

Austin took a more relaxed approach to the idea.

“It’s fuel,” Austin said. “But at the end of the day, we’re out there to hit a green and yellow ball.”

Gig Harbor already began their regular season, handling Central Kitsap and falling to Bellarmine in the opening week. Yet there’s still 14 more opportunities for the seniors to soak in the experience of high school tennis.

“I’ve played for clubs,” Austin said. “I’ve played in tournaments. But when that high school season comes around, there’s nothing really like it. There’s a camaraderie. We feed off each other.”

Austin isn’t the only player soaking in the moment.

“They love to be there,” Wood said. “They’re willing to work hard and they’re willing to invest in the team experience. It’s not all about them; it’s about the team. And I really think that is what makes the team strong.

“The opportunity to be with these athletes … with this team, my favorite part is how grateful and enthusiastic these players are. And as a coach, you can’t ask for more than that.”