There may be no state championship tournament for tennis, but that hasn't stopped the Juneau-Douglas High School tennis team from preparing as if there was one.
The third season in Crimson Bears' tennis history comes to a close this weekend at the Anchorage High School Invitational.
"I'm playing singles up there and I'm hoping I can do well," junior Bryan Crowder said. "I'm definitely out there to compete."
The tournament will feature players from Southeast Alaska, Anchorage and Fairbanks.
While teams in other parts of Alaska can easily compete against other schools, the Crimson Bears had to take a different route this season. This weekend will be Juneau-Douglas' second tournament of the year. The Crimson Bears have been getting their competition in where they can.
"I'm looking at having and seeing if we can add one more tournament where we can go to or bring people here next year," JDHS coach Amy Skilbred said. "All of it is under 'Can you make it affordable?' and we're still a building team."
Instead of being able to play other high school teams, the Crimson Bears improvised by holding in-house tournaments within the team and playing against adults at the JRC/The Alaska Club.
In fact, Juneau-Douglas held its first high school championship tournament last weekend to crown the team's best.
In the girls' singles final, Lyndsey Kelly topped Dream Suchitbharabitya 6-7 (2), 6-4, 10-7. The duo then combined to top Molly Tostle and Merijke Coenraad 6-4, 6-1 for the doubles title.
Kelly and Suchitbharabitya will compete as a doubles tandem in Anchorage this weekend and have earned solid experience by playing adults at the club.
"Dream and I played in the Back to School tournament and the two ladies we were playing against would just come up to the net and slam it down," Kelly said. "We're going to try and do that in Anchorage. We've been practicing that."
In the boys' draw, Crowder won the school title by besting Devon Kibby 6-3, 4-7, 7-6 (3). Kibby then teamed with Nathan Woodring to win the boys' doubles title, beating Crowder and Owen Kelley 6-3, 6-1.
Crowder will compete in the singles competition in Anchorage this weekend.
"You have to rely on yourself in the games," Crowder said of the tournament. "It's a lot more pressure, but a lot more rewarding in the end."
Skilbred is bringing 16 players of varying degrees of skill and experience to Anchorage. For her, success isn't measure in forehand winners or aces smashed. It's about bringing new people to the sport and helping them develop a lifelong love of the game.
"It's been great," Skilbred said. "The number of kids that come out, how much fun they seem to be having, watching new beginners progress and older players get better as well. I think it's all been working."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org