In most high school sports, athletes get numerous opportunities to prove themselves throughout the course of a season. One lost game in volleyball or baseball rarely ruins an entire season.
The Juneau-Douglas tennis team, however, doesn't have the luxury of a large schedule.
The Crimson Bears are scheduled for just one tournament, this weekend's Fairbanks High School Invitational tournament.
"I'm really excited," team captain Kaelen Knutson-Lombardo said. "Last year we were just excited to be going. This year we're looking to play some good matches."
The JDHS tennis program is in its third year of existence and will not be eligible for post-season play this season. While the fledgling team continues to stress the game's fundamentals and basics, the squad has grown in popularity.
Knutson-Lombardo has been on the team since the program's inception and said the squad has grown every year.
With so many newcomers picking up a racquet for the first time, Knutson-Lombardo and some of the team's more experienced players serve as coaches and athletes.
"There are so many beginners but that's cool because otherwise, we wouldn't be a team," Knutson-Lombardo said.
The team boasts about 28 players, though 10 will be headed to Fairbanks.
During practices, coaches Amy Skilbred and Tony Nelson must improvise to give their players the practice time and competition they need to improve.
That can be difficult with only a few indoor courts at the JRC/The Alaska Club for 28 players.
Skilbred, however, praised her team's dedication and enthusiasm for the sport.
"It's been great," Skilbred said. "Twenty-five kids are here and it's the third year of tennis for the team. Several people have never played before and some have played in tournaments."
While the team wants to do well in Fairbanks, it's clear that winning isn't the ultimate goal.
The team simply enjoys playing the game.
"I love this team because you get to practice and play with your friends," JDHS sophomore Dream Suchibharabitya said. "It's hard work."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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