When Bella Goble found out she was moving to Kodiak, one of the first things she did was look to see if the high school had a tennis team.
To her surprise, it did.
It just wasn’t the kind of tennis team she was used to playing for while at Puyallup High School in Western Washington.
Puyallup, a school double the size of Kodiak with 1,600 students, had 42 girls on the tennis team. Bella was one of them. A freshman on the varsity.
The squad played in the spring and had matches two to three nights a week, leaving no time for practice once the season got going.
It is all practice in Kodiak as the team’s only true matches come next Monday at the Region III Championships at the Alaska Club East in Anchorage. The three-day event concludes Wednesday.
“I’m grateful that they have a team,” said Goble during Tuesday’s practice at Baranof Field. “I was worried they were not going to have one.”
While several of Kodiak’s players will play in a match for the first time at regionals, Goble is a seasoned veteran of competition. She said that will help calm the nerves as she wears Kodiak’s blue jersey for the first time.
“There is a strategy part to match play, and I definitely have that experience,” said Goble, whose father is in the Coast Guard and relocated to Kodiak during the summer.
Goble, a tennis players since the age of 7, is Kodiak’s entrant into the girls’ singles competition. She was used as a doubles player last year at Puyallup.
“She is a very steady player,” Kodiak coach Steve Johnston said.
With Goble in the stable, Johnston is hoping Kodiak can defend its regional title from a year ago. It was the Bears’ ninth regional title, but the first one they earned, as prior to 2015 they were the only tennis team in the region.
Now, Colony, Palmer, Wasilla and Lumen Christi in Anchorage all field teams, which makes earning a trip to state even more difficult — the champions in each event qualify for the state championship tournament held Oct. 6-7 in Anchorage.
Two Kodiak players who advanced to state a year ago are part of the team’s eight regional players this year.
Chelsey Abad, who went to state last year in girls’ doubles, is playing mixed doubles this year with region rookie senior Hunter Blair.
Alisha Santamaria, a state qualifier in mixed doubles last year, is teaming with Luanne Velasco in girls’ doubles this year.
Junior Fisher Gandel will be playing boys’ singles for the third year in a row. He lost to Palmer’s John Barton in the championship match the past two years. Barton has graduated, which has opened the door for Kodiak’s top boy.
Regional newbies Max Pyles and Tiger Oka will be in the boys’ doubles competition.
Elbren Montuya and Amber Francisco are Kodiak’s alternates.
“I would like to see several of the teams make it in to state,” Johnston said.