Deep boys team, experienced girls squad has Sandpoint tennis aiming for district title sweep

by Dylan Greene
Sports Editor | March 13, 2020 3:05 PM

SANDPOINT — About every five years or so, a mild winter rolls through North Idaho and the snow melts by the time tennis season rolls around. This isn’t a statement of fact, rather it’s something tennis head coach Kent Anderson has noticed over his 12 years of coaching the Bulldogs.

And this year was one of those years, allowing Sandpoint’s tennis team to play outside at Travers Park a few weeks before their season opener which is something they haven’t been able to do over the past couple seasons.

“We spent three weeks in the gym last year,” Anderson said. “In previous years, we’ll go into our first two or three matches having never played outside. This year we’ll be ready.”

The Bulldogs are taking advantage of the weather and look primed to compete for a district title on the boys and girls’ side.

Last year, the girls team soared past Moscow and Lakeland to claim the regional crown. But seven of the team’s top 11 players graduated in 2019 leaving Sandpoint with some holes to fill.

Luckily, the Bulldogs return their top two singles players, senior captains Jenny Slaveck and Hadley Goodvin, and saw five players join the team that Anderson wasn’t expecting to have this spring. Bekah Embree, Olivia Petruso and Claire Hampton all moved to Sandpoint over the past nine months and senior Sage Saccomanno and sophomore Quincy Evans are new to the team as well.

Given the reinforcements the Bulldogs received and the potential Anderson has seen from them so far, he is expecting big things from the girls, especially his two captains.

“I expect Jenny and Hadley are going to be heading back to state,” Anderson said. “I’m not sure what the other teams have. I know what they had last year and unless they got some new people like we did there’s no one they can beat Jenny and Hadley.”

Slaveck, the Bulldogs No. 1 singles player, was named the 4A Inland Empire League Girls Player of the Year last season and won the singles title at districts before going 1-2 at state. Slaveck has played quite a few matches throughout the course of her career and Anderson believes that experience will help her make a deep run at state.

“No. 1 is the hardest position because you never know what you’re going to face,” he said. “Jenny could be playing at a high level and she’ll be going against a full-ride Division I player. She has a good chance of going undefeated in league depending on what the other schools throw at her.”

Slaveck also received all-league honors this past fall on the volleyball team and will be heading to Colby College in Waterville, Maine, after she graduates to play the sport.

Slaveck said trying to balance the time she spends honing her skills on the volleyball and tennis courts has been difficult to do over the past few years while trying to get recruited to play volleyball collegiately, but now that she doesn’t have to stress about finding a school and sending film to teams across the country, she’s been able to spend more time working on tennis.

That extra work in the offseason has allowed Slaveck to improve her serving and get more first serves in, which is something Slaveck is looking forward to utilizing throughout the season to hopefully place at state.

Besides getting back to state, Slaveck wants to be a leader on the team in her final season and pass on her knowledge to the new players.

“I would just like to improve my consistency with my shots and not drop a set at districts,” she added.

Like Slaveck, Goodvin earned all-league honors for her efforts in 2019 and notched a 1-2 mark at state.

Despite only grabbing one win at state last year, Anderson said Goodvin was playing her best tennis at the perfect time.

“[Goodvin] had a great state tournament last year,” he said, “and took it to a level I’ve never seen her play and I think as we get into this season, she’ll get back to that level.”

Improving her backhand was what Goodvin focused on when she and the rest of the team’s top players made trips every Saturday from the middle of November until the end of February to the Peak Tennis Center in Hayden to practice.

Goodvin has been playing tennis since seventh grade and loves that the sport helps take her mind off of everything else that is going on in her life.

Goodvin plans on making a return trip to state and wants to do whatever she can to help Anderson this season, whether that’s mentoring other players or scheduling team meetings.

“I want to be remembered as someone that brought positivity to the team,” Goodvin said, “and I want Kent to remember me as someone who can always be there for him ... I also want to be someone that the other kids look up to.”

The Three Musketeers

The old saying goes, “iron sharpens iron.”

Well in this case, racket sharpens racket. The boys team will be led by a trio of junior captains who are all gunning for the Bulldogs No. 1 singles spot. Their names are Charlie Johnson, Christian Story and Josh Embree.

The latter is the brother of Bekah on the girls team. The duo and their family moved to Sandpoint over the summer from Austin, Texas.

Johnson is the returning No. 1 from last year’s squad that took third as a team at districts. And Story was on Sandpoint’s No. 1 boys doubles pairing last season.

They all want the No. 1 singles spot but only one can have it. In order to decide the battle for the top spot, challenge matches were held last week between the three and Embree emerged victorious.

He will open the season as the team’s No. 1 and doesn’t have plans on relinquishing it while he is competing for Sandpoint.

“I think I’ll be able to be No. 1 for all the time I’m up here, at least that’s the goal,” Embree said.

Despite having to beat each other out for one spot, all three think the friendly competition will be beneficial to them once the season starts.

“I believe that win match season comes that is going to help us a lot because we’re going to be pushing ourselves even more on the court in practice to try and reach that spot,” Story said.

Story will be a part of the team’s No. 1 doubles pairing again and Johnson will slide into the No. 2 singles spot.

The boys squad has no seniors but the return of Tyler McNamee and the young talent throughout the lineup has everyone on the team believing big things are in store for this season.

“The boys team is as strong as I’ve ever seen it,” Johnson said.

Johnson can’t wait to get the season started.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m more focused on tennis probably than I’ve ever been.”

Embree has big aspirations in his first year on the team — he wants a state title.

“I’ve looked at the top in the state,” he said, “and they’re better than I am as of right now but it’s not too far of reach to beat them and so I think it’s possible, I just got to work hard.”

Anderson thinks the Bulldogs have a great chance to secure a girls and boys district title this season and send 12 players to state.

Sandpoint tennis opens the season Saturday morning at the Post Falls Tournament.

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There are only five seniors on the Sandpoint tennis roster this season. Pictured (from left): Claire Hampton, Hadley Goodvin, Jenny Slaveck, Sage Saccomanno and Taryn McBride.

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(Photo by DYLAN GREENE) Senior Hadley Goodvin attempts to return a serve during a practice this year.