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Vikings must rebuild with youthful roster

Forest Grove boys will enter the year with only a handful of experienced players

It's a rebuilding year for the Forest Grove boys tennis team. Not that it bothers head coach Rich Taylor.

When Taylor left Jesuit High School and joined the Vikings in 1999, he wasn't drawn by a stable of tennis talent coming through the schools.

It was just the opposite.

'I wanted to coach kids that know nothing about tennis,' Taylor said. 'I coach kids that are juniors or seniors and are just starting and have never picked up a racquet before.'

Taylor is annually faced with the challenge of introducing inexperienced players to the complexities of tennis. Without any returning state qualifiers from last year's team, Forest Grove is looking to rebuild.

'What we have is a lot of inexperienced players,' Taylor said. 'It's going to be a different season for us. We have four to five sophomores just starting out. They seem to be very athletic but they need to learn more about the game.'

The Vikings will lean heavy on its few experienced players, including senior Max Wilson, who will play No. 1 doubles and may also play No. 1 singles on occasion. Seniors Judd Parsons and Robert Ganje will also serve as the foundation for the team.

Several younger players have shown some athleticism and could develop into strong players, Taylor said. Nathan Tanous has shown to have talent on par with the team's best players.

'He has lots of potential, he's got lots of passion,' Taylor said. 'He's very athletic, and he's playing more right now than anyone else on our team except his brother [senior Logan Tanous]. When he plays that much, he has a chance to advance a long way.'

Developing the boys team will be a year-long task for Taylor, but his efforts will be more concentrated this season than in years past. Taylor is only coaching the boys team this year after coaching both squads in years past.

Taking over the girls' team is Kelli Sides, who joined the Forest Grove staff at the start of this school year. Sides will take over a large and promising roster led by returning state tournament qualifier Lauren Wilber.

Wilber has committed to playing tennis at Wellesley College in Massachusetts next year. In the meantime, she will look to improve on last year's performance, which culminated in two losses at the state tournament.

She is one of this year's team captains along with Acacia Rodriguez, another senior who will play No. 2 doubles and help lead a 45-member girls tennis squad.

Like the boys team, Sides' roster is filled with girls that have never played a game of tennis and some that have been playing tournaments for years.

Competition outside of the high school team is key to developing as a player, Taylor said, and the results are evident in players like Nathan Tanous and his older brother, Logan.

'[Most of my players] don't play nearly as much as I would like them to, but I try to encourage them,' Taylor said.

'Nathan and his brothers, they play probably three to four times a week just on their own. That helps them get better and it shows the passion they have for the game.'