Senior-laded Mustangs lead local tennis players into regions

Friday, October 4, 2019 - 09:16
  • Emilee Groth, of Chugiak High, returns the ball against Erica Hurtte, of Juneau-Douglas High, during the first day of the Alaska high school state tennis tournament at the Alaska Club in Anchorage, AK on Friday, Oct 5, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)
  • Chugiak’s Francis Wanek hits a shot during a match against Eagle River on Friday, Sept. 27 at the Alaska Club East in Anchorage. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Chugiak’s Riley Fugere hits a shot during his high school tennis match against South’s Gabriel Portal on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Chugiak High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chugiak’s Bethany Kesler reaches for the ball as teammate Francis Wanek looks on during the team’s mixed doubles match against South’s Lochlan Mullen and Abbie Hemry on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Chugiak High. Wanek and Kesler won the match in a tiebreaker. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Coaches for Chugiak and Eagle River’s love their teams’ prospects at the upcoming Region IV Championships — but for very different reasons.

For Chugiak’s Paul McDonough, a senior-laden Mustangs squad featuring several of the region’s top players has the team galloping into the tournament.

“Nine of our 14 players are seniors,” said McDonough, whose team features an undefeated — and top-seeded — player in girls singles star Emilee Groth.

McDonough said foreign exchange student Risa Otani could make a deep run in the region bracket, as could the likes of mixed doubles team Frankie Wanek and Bethany Kesler and boys singles standouts Riley Fugere and Tyler Winborg.

Groth will be looking for her first state championship after finishing runner-up to South’s Christine Hemry last year as Hemry completed a four-year sweep of the girls singles division, and McDonough said his senior is more than deserving of a top seed at regions.

“She’s such a hard worker, she’s here every week,” said McDonough during a match at the Alaska Club East last week.

The club is one of the few places tennis players can practice during the fall, when wet weather typically limits outdoor court time to just a couple days a week.

McDonough said Wanek and Kesler also have a shot at a region title after rolling through the mixed doubles competition this season.

“They’ve been rock stars,” he said.

The region tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at the club, which is located on Tudor Road in Anchorage.

Groth said it’s been easy to put in the work. She said she fell in love with tennis after coming out for the sport her freshman year and hasn’t slowed down since.

“I just have a lot of fun playing tennis,” she said.

Groth and Fugere — a multisport athlete who also plays baseball and hockey — said they like tennis both for the competition as well as the life-long nature of the sport.

“You make a lot of friends playing tennis,” Fugere said.

While Chugiak will be hoping to challenge powerhouse West for region supremacy, Eagle River coach Chris Love said he’s excited to see how far his team has come this season.

“We’ve got a very athletic team,” Love said of his squad, which won two of its matches this season — two more than last year.

Love said many of his players are new to the game but have seen big improvements as the year has gone on. At regions, he said those players will get a chance to test themselves against the best in the city.

“I like how they’re all starting to put it together,” he said.

The top four finishers in each bracket at regions will advance to the state tournament, which will be held Oct. 11-12 at the Alaska Club East.

Mustangs win, Wolves fall in final tuneups

Chugiak claimed a 7-2 win over Bartlett on Saturday while Eagle River dropped a 5-4 match to Service in the final regular-season tennis matches of the season at the Alaska Club East in Anchorage.

The Mustangs got wins from Tyler Winborg (boys No. 1 singles), Risa Otani (girls No. 1 singles), Megan Anshutz (girls No. 2 singles), Francis Wanek/Riley Fugere (boys No. 1 doubles), Kaleb Hendershot/Matthew Keller (boys No. 2 doubles), Emilee Groth/Tyana Melak (girls No. 1 doubles) and Robert Wanek/Bethany Kesler (mixed doubles).

Eagle River picked up wins from Cam Witte/Stefan Retzlaff (boys No. 2 doubles), Ella Bryner/Sara VonWhite (girls No. 1 doubles), and Lily Singleton and Lila Wegener (girls No. 2 doubles).

Region IV seeds announced

Chugiak will have seeded athletes in four of the five brackets at the region tournament.

In addition Groth’s No. 1 seed, Wanek and Kesler received a No. 2 seed in mixed doubles, Megan Anschutz and Tyana Melak will be the No. 3 seed in girls doubles and Fugere earned the No. 4 seed in the boys singles bracket. Teams and players who reach the semifinals qualify for the state tournament.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of one of the members of Eagle River’s winning boys doubles team.

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