Lady Vikings have one of the largest rosters in the league

After a 2012 season in which she coached both the Forest Grove boys and girls tennis squads, Kelli Sides is back to exclusively coaching the ladies side this year.

“This year I’m back to doing just the girls, which is a lot better,” Sides said at a practice session last week. “A lot less stressful.”

As in Sides’ first two seasons, players have turned out in numbers this year — nearly 40 participants in all have come out for this year’s team, which Sides estimates as one of the largest in the Pacific Conference, about the same size as McMinnville.

“I think it just speaks really highly of our program that girls keep wanting to come out and bring their friends,” Sides said.

In 2012, the Lady Vikings finished in the middle of the league pack, Sides recalled. And though the numbers are healthy, the team does have some holes to fill, particularly on the doubles side.

“Our doubles graduated a lot of girls last year, so that’s kind of where we’re filling holes,” Sides said. “But singles is definitely looking strong. I’d obviously love for us to get a doubles team or a singles player to state this year. That’s always our goal.”

On the singles side, senior Margaret Connors steps into the No. 1 spot after playing No. 2 singles behind the now-graduated Kelley Nemchick in 2012.

“She’s really developed a lot of power in her game, so I want to work on her consistency a little bit more,” Sides said. “But her power is there. She’s got a big serve.”

Krystal Estrada is playing at the second singles position, and Sides called her “really solid. She’s just like a backboard. That’s definitely her strength.”

Sides also called her No. 3 singles player, sophomore newcomer Karimi Naymu, “an up-and-comer.”

“She is really athletic. She picks it up like that,” Sides said of Naymu, who was victorious in her first two matches at the varsity level last week. “She’s already playing in the varsity lineup and it’s her first year playing.”

Eddaliz Gamez has been playing at fourth singles for the Vikings, who are kicking off the competitive portion of their season with six matches in two weeks.

Last week, Forest Grove took on West Salem, Tualatin and McMinnville. They also played Benson and Century early this week and are slated to play at Glencoe on Thursday.

After playing in the No. 3 doubles slot a year ago and just missing out on a state berth, Natalie Brandt and Taylor Aasland are back as the squad’s top tandem this season. And currently, seniors Joelle Hepler and Lisa Spiesschaert are playing No. 2 doubles, but Sides said they put up a good fight against Brandt and Aasland in practice.

Diana Gamez and Melissa Dominguez, and the duo of Tess Sivak and Charlotte Sidman have been filling out the third and fourth spots and varsity doubles.

“All the girls just get along so well,” Sides said. “They just want to be out here. They want to play all the time. And that, I think, is one of the best indications of having at least a really positive year, for sure.”

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