Celt Katrina Cabanlit draws back for a volley during McNary’s rain-canceled game with North Salem High School Tuesday, April 10. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Experience paid off in two recent matches for the McNary High School girls varsity tennis team last week.

The Celts kicked off Central Valley Conference competition with a 6-2 loss to Sprague High School, and the team’s freshmen provided a couple of bright spots for the team.

Freshman Sandy Childress defeated veteran Bailey Brooks in three sets,  0-6, 6-4, 6-3. Classmates Taslima Sidhu and Rachel Morrow beat their Oly opponents, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

“We played really tough, but we were pleased though because the freshmen went three sets and we lost one of others in a third-set tie-breaker,” said Mark Kohley, Celt head coach.

Katie Stignei and Megan Thompson battled it out to sets of 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).

The team is benefitting from a deep, experienced roster, Kohley said, with the No. 3 and No. 4 singles and doubles matches supplying wins when other teams’ talent begins to peter out.

Childress credited her teammates with helping her get up to speed.

“A lot of the girls on the team have helped me get used to the pace and learn the scoring,” she said. “I’m hoping just to get my basic hits down and then start hitting harder.”

McNary found more success in a 4-4 tie with South Salem High School Friday, April 6.

Stignei won by default in singles competition after the match was underway. Lexi Price won in the No. 4 singles slot.

In doubles action, Allison McGregor and Delaney Engle and Jill Jungwirth and Kate Janssen picked up wins.

“I think our strength of our pair is not only that we work hard individually, but that we work really well as a team,” Jungwirth said. “We’re able to move as one while we’re playing and think and strategize as a doubles team.”

Childress also managed to win three games, but not the match, against a seasoned Saxon opponent who hadn’t lost more than a single game to anyone all season, Kohley said.

Kohley hopes to see the girls reduce unforced errors, but that’s not an unexpected problem this early in the season.

Jungwirth said the team’s bonds formed over several years of playing together will help guide them through the season.

“We know our strengths and weaknesses and know when we need to pick each other up against our opponents,” she said. “Our team bond helps us be confident when we’re out there by ourselves.”