Tennis: South Kitsap Wolves relying on depth, not individual stars

Blake Staudenraus, last year’s No. 2 singles player, steps into the No. 1 role for the Wolves this season. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
Blake Staudenraus, last year’s No. 2 singles player, steps into the No. 1 role for the Wolves this season.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

South Kitsap’s boys tennis team might be stronger in league play than in tournaments.

Simply put, it’s a group that features depth, but not necessarily state-caliber individual players.

South coach Todd Olson supports that notion, saying that the team is strong, but “I don’t think we have one standout player.”

Dalton Vavra, who qualified for the Class 4A state tournament in 2007, graduated last spring. Blake Staudenraus — last year’s No. 2 singles player as a freshman — inherits the top spot.

“He’s played a lot of good competition, won a couple of matches in the league tournament and was just a couple away from making it to districts,” Olson said. “He should step in and make a difference.”

Staudenraus said he’s “a lot more comfortable” than a year ago. His family moved from Italy to Port Orchard in May 2007, and in addition to adjusting to climate — he was excited to see snow last winter — and cultural differences, Staudenrous also was at Cedar Heights Junior High. The rest of his teammates were at South.

“You get to walk around, see everyone and recognize people from the tennis team,” he said. “I look forward to being a leader this year.”

Staudenraus already was an experienced tennis player when he arrived, but he also is beginning to mature physically. He grew 4 inches during the last year and now is 5 foot 4 and said he lifts weights daily at his house.

He said hasn’t weighed himself lately, but has noticed increased strength during workouts at the Bremerton Tennis & Athletic Club. Staudenraus said his service speed has increased from 84 to 93 mph.

As the Wolves prepared to begin the season this week, Staudenraus also received some competition on the court as Vavra, who hasn’t signed with a college, returned to play him.

“He’s been doing that on his off-work days,” Staudenraus said. “It’s nice to be able to rally against him and everyone else on the team.”

Senior Dusty Wilkins, who played No. 2 doubles last season, likely will move into the No. 2 singles position this year. Olson expects him to be challenged by sophomore Isaac Roinas, a transfer from North Mason.

“Singles will be a big transition because I’ve never played it before,” said Wilkins, adding that he prefers it to doubles play. “I look forward to it, though. There’s a lot more conditioning and running involved.”

Olson also mentioned seniors Chris Hardwick and Sasha Stearns-Droker and junior Gavin Klein as some key returners. He said 30 people tried out for this year’s team.

“It’s a little more than usual, which always is nice,” Olson said. “It allows them to push each other, work harder and earn their spots every single day.”

He said Thursday’s match against Olympic particularly was intriguing. It pitted Staudenraus against Justin Hike, who advanced to the 3A state quarterfinals last year.

“He will be a good challenge for Blake to kind gauge where he’s at,” Olson said.

And maybe help determine how the Wolves will fare in tournaments.

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