Ram Tennis Team Has Eyes On The Big Prize -- Mount Rainier Wants State Title
DES MOINES - Senior Jenny Emerson strives for perfection in the classroom. Junior Lara Botts wants to be the best on the tennis court. Sophomore Moya Seitz believes she can be part of the top doubles team in the state - with Emerson.
The talented trio could wind up taking Mount Rainier High School to new heights.
The Rams finished second in the Class AA state girls tennis tournament last spring behind Seattle Prep, a team they beat for the Sea-King District championship. Botts was third in singles, while Emerson and Seitz surprised even themselves by placing fourth in doubles. Mount Rainier Coach Tim Lee believes a team state championship is possible this season.
"Lara would need to win state or finish second and we'd need the doubles team to at least finish fourth," Lee said. "That should give us enough points. But Seattle Prep has a farm system up there. It depends on how many kids they send and what (places) they get."
Mount Rainier never has captured a state championship in girls tennis, but won the boys crown in 1989. During the regular season, of course, there is no girls team or boys team - it's coed.
That's been an unbeatable combination at Mount Rainier the past eight years, at least as far as the Seamount League goes. The Rams came into the week with an 83-match win streak in league play, dating back to 1986, Lee's first year as head coach.
They expected a big test today from Lindbergh, weather permitting. The match was rained out yesterday and rescheduled for today. Both teams are 5-0.
The girls are carrying most of the weight for Mount Rainier this season, which leads to some good-natured teasing.
"They know we're holding them up," Botts said. "They admit it."
But she admits they help make her a better player by being available for practice matches. Emerson and Seitz benefit, too.
Last year, the boys were better able to hold their own. Seniors Vaughn Emerson (Jenny's brother) and Randy McAlpin took second at state in doubles, giving Mount Rainier third place in the boys team standings. Both have graduated.
Coed matches consist of seven points - two girls singles, two boys singles, one girls doubles, one boys doubles and one mixed doubles. Lee said Botts, Emerson and Seitz are the three best girl players in the Seamount League, which gives him lots of options when it comes time to make out his lineup. Botts, who has not dropped a game in singles, has played doubles and mixed doubles. Emerson and Seitz have yet to play doubles together, although Lee assures them they will team up for postseason tournaments.
"I have the flexibility to put them just about anywhere I need them," Lee said. "It's nice to have those options."
Emerson, a 4.0 student in Mount Rainier's elite International Baccalaureate program, didn't know what her options looked like early last season when her former partner, Jenah Clayton decided to quit the team.
"I've always been a doubles player, but I was thinking, `Maybe I'll do singles,' " she said. "Moya and I were kind of pushed together. We had a few problems getting it together at first, but things just seemed to work out."
Seitz was used to playing singles and it took an adjustment period for both players.
"There was a lot of pressure on her (Seitz)," Lee said. "She was going to play with one of the top players who needed a partner to go to state. But it wound up working out great for everyone."
Emerson, in particular, was thrilled just to qualify for state. She had been a doubles alternate her freshman and sophomore years. Placing fourth was a pleasant surprise. Seitz hopes for an even better one this year.
"I hope we can (win) state this year," she said. "It will take a lot of effort on both our parts. It's not so much for me, but for her (Emerson). It's her last year. It would be really neat if she got first."
Emerson, who also is a standout diver, admits her priorities are off the tennis court.
"For myself, I'm not planning to play tennis in college, so it (a title) doesn't really matter," she said.
Winning a state championship does matter a lot to Botts, who gave up soccer and basketball this year to concentrate on tennis. She placed fourth at state as a freshman. Her only two losses at state have been to Sunnyside's Lisa Hart, who is a senior this year. Botts took her to three sets in last year's tournament and believes she can beat Hart if they meet again. Her sights are on No. 1.
"That's the goal," she said. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Seamount League tennis players to watch
Adrian Buchan Mt. Rainier Sr.
Jon Campbell Highline Jr.
Yosef Durr Hazen Sr.
Mike Gama-Lobo Highline Jr.
Mark Febrero Lindbergh Jr.
Sid Febrero Lindbergh Jr.
Mark Hirari Renton Sr.
Richard Lo Lindbergh Jr.
Jimmy Trinh Highline Jr.
Lara Botts Mt. Rainier Jr.
Jenny Emerson Mt. Rainier Sr.
Chase Gregory Lindbergh Jr.
Kelly Gregory Lindbergh Jr.
Nila Kim Renton Sr.
Amy Low Highline Jr.
Nakanishi Renton Sr.
Moya Seitz Mt. Rainier so.
Nou Chee Vang Evergreen Sr.
Vistaunet Highline Jr.
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