GIRLS TENNIS PREVIEW - Sandy returns top players in the lineup for another winning season
by: file photo Sandy's Caitlin Barron returns to the singles lineup after putting in a solid 2010 season.

While Sandy's girls tennis program is clearly on the rise, head coach Greg Thorson can easily point out where the improvement is coming from.

'Girls are beginning to play tennis in their free time, and because of it, we just keep getting better,' Thorson said.

The Pioneers finished tied for second in the Mount Hood Conference with a 6-2 dual-meet record last season before getting stuck in a jumble of tightly packed teams at the district tournament. Sandy beat some perennial contenders with close wins over Saint Mary's and Barlow - matches where the team's mental toughness shined through.

'We pulled out matches that maybe we shouldn't have just because we didn't give in.' Thorson said.

One area that Thorson is beginning to focus on is individual footwork.

In the past time was spent teaching girls the fundamentals of the game, however, given the level of talent the program now has, Thorson is beginning to feel the freedom of being able to focus more and more on strategy.

That strategy will definitely be coming in handy this season, because despite the team's move to 5A, it appears the road will actually be tougher. Central Catholic was the class of the Mount Hood Conference last season, but when they faced Wilsonville of the NWOC they were handed a decisive 8-0 loss. The Wildcats return four players from last year's 5A state title team, including third-place singles player Abby Farrell.

'Wilsonville and Sherwood are as good as anyone in the state, and we just hope that over the next couple of years that we can begin to enter that realm,' Thorson said.

Melina White is the team captain for the Pioneers, while Kaitlin Barron is expected to be the team's No. 1 singles player. Sandy also has added two key players into the mix, as freshman Haley Fisher is described as 'dynamite' by Thorson, while foreign-exchange student Sophia Cipriano will see the court as a doubles player this year.

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