Sixteen Juneau-Douglas High School tennis players will wage battle against three Anchorage teams over today and Saturday, as the Crimson Bears get their best chance of the year to prepare for the state championships on Oct. 10 -11.
Eight girls and eight boys will make the trip, facing teams from West this afternoon, South on Saturday morning and then Service on Saturday afternoon.
"We have a lot more depth this year than we've ever had before, and we're expecting it to go pretty well with a lot of close matches all around," sixth-year head coach Amy Skilbred said. "I hear they've had a couple of new kids move in and some new exchange students, but we'll go up there and see what they've got."
The trip will be the team's first trip out of town since traveling to Anchorage in August for unofficial matches against Fairbanks and Kodiak teams. Those games were not scheduled as head-to-head matches between schools, though, and were more of a "jamboree" style, according to Skilbred.
With a lack of opponents in the Southeast and unable to travel to Anchorage every weekend, the Crimson Bears have made the most of their practices by splitting their 48 total players into six smaller teams and scrimmaging every Tuesday and Thursday.
"It gives them an opportunity to play, especially for kids who don't travel," Skilbred said. "We need as much practice as we can get playing in a competitive atmosphere."
JDHS is led by only two seniors this year, the boys' Steffan Wilcox and the girls' Merijke Coenraad. They will pair as the team's mixed-doubles squad, and both may end up playing some singles matches as well.
Junior Nathan Graves is the boys' strongest singles player, and Skilbred expects him to be competitive with Anchorage's best.
Along with Coenraad, Svenga Maier and Laurel Messerschmidt give the girls a trio of experienced players who will carry much of the load in both singles and doubles play.