Crimson Bears Tennis Team Heads to State Championships

    The JDHS Yadaa.at Kalé state tennis team, from left, Gloria Bixby (JDHS), Liam Penn (JD), Katie Pikul (JD), Callan Smith (JD), Jaymie Collman (TMHS), Will Rehfeldt (JD), Anna Dale (JD) and Alain Soltys-Gray (TM).

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kale tennis team, a mix of Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain students that compete under the Crimson Bears sports umbrella, has selected their eight athletes to compete at the Alaska School Activities Association state championships beginning Thursday at the Anchorage Alaska Club East.

      “I feel like we have a strong team going up,” Crimson Bears coach Anne Kincheloe said. “We have eight kids that will play and we just hope to get into the first two brackets. It is double elimination this year so it will give us a chance to, if we lose a first match, to maybe come back and get into the semifinals and then the finals”

      JDHS junior Katie Pikul will compete in girls singles.

      “Making sure you are hitting it deep and playing a lot of angles on them,” Pikul said of playing state competition. “And making sure you are getting to the net and having a game plan.”

      Pikul said her strong point is hitting across court.

      “And making everybody move,” she said. “I will wide out angles and hit just the line so they have to run, and then I will hit it back to the other side and make them run again. That is normally how I end up getting a lot of points.”

      JDHS senior Will Rehfeldt will compete in boys singles. He said being unpredictable was a key to singles tennis success.

      “If your opponent knows what you are doing they can generally beat you,” Rehfeldt said. “But if they have no clue they get lost in the court.”

      Rehfeldt said his strong point was patience.

      “I am good at waiting for my opportunities,” he said. “And picking my moments.”

      JDHS junior Anna Dale and TMHS senior Jaymie Collman will compete in girls doubles.

      “Communication and strategy,” Collman said of playing doubles.

      Said Dale, “Yes, communication and really getting to the net. I think when we are at the net we win a lot of our points.”

      Collman said her strong point is aggressiveness at the net.

      “Going to the net is a really useful thing in tennis,” Collman said.

      Added Dale, “I think I am also aggressive at the net but I also think I can change it up. So just keep the rallies going until we win the point.”

      JDHS seniors Liam Penn and Callan Smith will compete in boys doubles and both agreed that communication and getting to the net were key for playing as a good doubles team.

      “Just making sure that we play well together,” Penn said. “That we have good chemistry and that we can put stuff away when we approach the net.”

      Smith said his strong point was his game at the net.

      “Because I am pretty tall,” he said. “I can cover a lot of it. That kind of compliments Liam as well. We just play together pretty well.”

      Added Penn, “I think I have a pretty good serve. And I am also pretty aggressive at the net. I think the tournament is going to be a lot of fun and I think we are going to do pretty well.”

      Smith said if things go as planned, “I think we will make it pretty far this year.”

      JDHS junior Gloria Bixby and TMHS senior Alain Soltys-Gray will compete in mixed doubles. JDHS sophomore Brendan West had been in mixed doubles but was unavailable for state so Soltys-Gray stands in as first alternate.

      Bixby said her strong point was “Keeping a positive attitude. I am known for not really getting down on myself so that can kind of help me in a match. Working together definitely contributes to a good mixed doubles team and just knowing your plays. And knowing that you have a partner to back you up if you go for something that you can’t get.”

      Soltys-Gray said his strong point is working together.

      “Just enjoying every point,” he said. “And hoping it goes well. I am very excited for the state tournament.”

      Last season JDHS state qualifiers were Dale, Collman, Smith, West, Penn, Rehfeldt, Pikul and Adelie McMillian (graduated), Due to the coronavirus pandemic the team did not attend state and the event only included players form Colony, Dimond, Lathrop, Palmer, South Anchorage, Wasilla, West Anchorage and West Valley.

      Juneau-Douglas placed fifth at the 2019 state tournament won by co-champions South and West Anchorage. At the 2019 state tournament the Crimson Bears won the Sportsmanship Award; Collman and Olivia Moore (graduated) placed third in girls doubles; Penn and McMillan (graduated) placed fourth in mixed doubles; Dale placed fifth in girls singles; and Rehfeldt and William Smoker (graduated) placed fifth in boys doubles.

      Kincheloe believes this years state team has the potential to have one of the school’s best finishes.

      “They are a very cohesive team,” Kincheloe said. “After we went to Anchorage for the invitational this year they became more of a unit and I really like that. They support each other and they are very positive.”

      The ASAA state championships begin at noon Thursday. Each bracket is double elimination play.

      Pikul will play Monroe Catholic’s Erin Hendricks at noon to open play in girls singles.

      Rehfeldt will play Dimond’s Andrew Teasley at noon to open boys singles. Teasley finished third at last years state tournament.

      Collman and Dale will play Dimond’s Meghan Spils & Laney Fagerstrom at 4 p.m. to open their girls doubles action. Spils and Fagerstrom placed second at last years state championships.

      Penn and Smith will play West Valley’s Payan & Rowland at 1:30 p.m. to open their boys doubles tournament.

      Bixby and Soltys-Gray will open mixed doubles action at 7:30 p.m. against West Anchorage’s Smith & Sedwick.

      The ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Tennis State Championships run through Saturday.

      The JDHS 2021 tennis roster included:

      Seniors - Collman (TM), Penn (JD), Rehfeldt (JD), Soltys-Gray (TM) and Smith (JD).

      Juniors - Dale (JD), Pikul (JD), Bixby (JD), Kean Buss (JD), Karter Kohlhase (JD) and Krishna Bathija (JD).

      Sophomores - West (JD), Elizabeth Djajalie (TM), Joshua Kessler (TM), Chelsea Ligsay (JD), Sam Cheng (JD), Paul King (JD) and Kyra Wood (JD)

      Freshmen - Dylan Sowa (JD), Milina Mazon (JD), Taliesin Paul (JD), Finley Rautianinen (JD), Alex Rehfeldt (JD), Hayden Soboloff (TM), Eero Woolford (JD) and Lucas Mattson (TM).

    Above - The Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé state tennis team, from left, JDHS junior Gloria Bixby, JDHS senior Liam Penn, JDHS junior Katie Pikul, JDHS senior Callan Smith, TMHS senior Jaymie Collman, JDHS senior Will Rehfeldt, JDHS junior Anna Dale and TMHS senior Alain Soltys-Gray. 

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