GIRLS TENNIS PREVIEW | Wilkins eager to accept new role

South Kitsap senior Emily Wilkins is the Wolves’ first new No. 1 singles player since Kailyn Skjonsby assumed that role in 2011.  - Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo
South Kitsap senior Emily Wilkins is the Wolves’ first new No. 1 singles player since Kailyn Skjonsby assumed that role in 2011.
— image credit: Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo

South Kitsap must turn to a new No. 1 girls tennis singles player for the first time since 2011.

It is a role senior Emily Wilkins is eager to accept.

Kailyn Skjonsby, who advanced to the Class 4A state tennis tournament as a singles player in each of the last three seasons, graduated and now competes at Seattle University. Wilkins, who was the Wolves’ No. 2 singles player last year, inherits the top position from her.

“Kailyn taught me a whole bunch of skills and just everything about tennis,” Wilkins said. “Now I’m ready to be a number one.”

Wilkins is somewhat unconventional in comparison to many of her teammates. Top tennis players often focus solely on that sport. But Wilkins primarily is a soccer player — she played forward at South — and plans to continue with that sport in the fall at Olympic College. While Wilkins is not able to focus on tennis during the fall, she believes there are crossover benefits to playing both sports.

“Soccer helps a lot with your footwork, which is what tennis is all about,” she said. “I can run down any ball.”

Coach Mark Myers is confident Wilkins will be ready when the Wolves open their season Wednesday at Mount Tahoma.

“She has real promise,” he said. “If she works at it, I think she can at least get through the district level.”

Myers also likes the three players behind Wilkins on the depth chart. Seniors Rachel Bauman, McKenzie Henry and Laura Rill are expected to compete for the No. 2 singles position with the other two forming the school’s top doubles’ team. Myers said juniors Polina Aguilar and Elizabeth DiGiovanni will play at No. 2 doubles. The final doubles’ team is open. Myers said seniors Shaila Bolger and Natalie Kathan and juniors Raylynn Branes, Madison Cook, Elizabeth Novak, Kennedy Parker, Tessa Van Parys and Stephanie Schippel will vie for those two positions.

“The rest is a precipitous drop-off to novice land,” he said, referring to several newcomers who have not competed in the sport before this season. “A lot of them are really picking it up quickly.”

The Wolves do not play a 4A Narrows opponent until April 22 against Central Kitsap. Myers said he does not have much perspective on players or teams that might pose a challenge to South’s playoff prospects yet.

“I can’t even remember because Kailyn dominated everything last year,” he said. “It kind of warped my sense of who is good and who isn’t.”

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