The Juneau-Douglas High School varsity tennis team travels to Anchorage this weekend for a preview of what to expect next month at the Alaska state championship tournament.
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The players are optimistic, focused and sincerely believe they are in for a great weekend of competition.
Head coach Amy Skilbred will lead her tennis troops into varsity competition against West Anchorage twice and will face South Anchorage as well.
"This is a big hurdle," Skilbred said. "West and South are pretty much the top teams up there these days. We have some really strong women players compared to the women up there."
"And with the boys," she added, "We have a fair amount of depth, so we will just have to see what will happen."
Sophomore Aaron Cohen will visit Anchorage for the second time in his tennis career and is not as skeptical about what he will see this weekend.
"The guys up there are really good, but it will be interesting because everyone here is a lot better," he said. "The competition is a lot better here, and we will have to see if they are better, too."
Senior co-captains Lindsey Kelly and Dream Suchitbaharabitya are anticipating an action-packed weekend of fun and spirit.
Kelly, 16, said she believes JDHS will do very well in Anchorage.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," she said. "We went up to Fairbanks earlier this year, and Anchorage has a lot stronger players than Fairbanks, so we will have some good competition - that's for sure. We have our strongest 16 players going, from our seniors down to freshman."
Suchitbaharabitya, 17, said Juneau is on a reconnaissance mission.
"We're hoping to get a sneak peak on them," she said. "We want to see how they play, because state is going to be intense this year. Anchorage teams are really good. They practice really well. They have way more coaches, and they staff a lot of clubs up there with pros that help out with the programs."
Although the Bears lost a couple of strong players last year, sophomore Laurel Messerschmidt says she believes this year's team is just as good, possibly even better.
"I expect good things, because there is more experience this year, as we have a lot of people coming back from the previous year," Messerschmidt said. "So it's looking good."
Although there seems to be a slight advantage playing on home courts, Cohen does not find that taking the team on the road is much different from playing here in Juneau.
"Considering that we have practically no cheering section here, our cheering section is basically our team," Cohen said. "Last year, we got pretty into it, and it was a lot of fun."
JDHS exchange student Ling Chan, from Hong Kong, says she is looking forward to visiting Anchorage. When asked if she was going to win in Anchorage, she chuckled, "I think so."
Suchitbaharabitya agreed, saying, "Yeah, we got the spirit."