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  The SEC Of Idaho Tennis

19 of the past 22 tennis state champions have come from the Snake River Valley Conference.

By: Will Hoenike
Published: 5/15/2019 10:30:14 AM
 





 
In 2018, the Parma, Weiser and Fruitland girls claimed first, second and fourth in the 3A IHSAA State Tennis championships. On the boys side, Parma, Fruitland, Homedale and Weiser all finished in the top six. Parma swept the team championships by wide margins.

That’s hardly new news.

Dating back to 2008, when the IHSAA started separating boys and girls state championships, the 3A classification has been dominated by the Snake River Valley Conference in District 3. Over the past 11 years, three boys’ titles for Sun Valley’s Community School are the only team titles between boys and girls of the 22 total championships over that time span that don’t belong to either Parma or Fruitland of the SRV. Parma has swept the team titles in four of the past five years and its girls’ team has won eight of the past 11 championships.

For analogy’s sake, the 3A SRV is akin to the Southeastern Conference in college football or the Atlantic Coast Conference in college basketball. Want to win a state title? You’re going to have to go through the SRV to get it.

“Knowing that our league usually has many of the top four placers in each event at state from year-to-year is big for preparing our kids,” said Fruitland head coach Drew Judson. “We can say every year now that when we are competing well with Parma and Weiser in the regular season that we are competing with the best of the best at the 3A level in the state of Idaho.”

The Weiser girls placed second at state last spring with the boys finishing sixth. The Wolverines followed that up by finishing second in the 3A SRV district tournament last week in both the boys and girls competition.

“We are so excited to be taking 15 players and represent in every division,” said Weiser head coach Angie Soulen. “Our kids love to play. We literally have to kick them off the courts at times after practice. They are so excited to be going to State.”

Both Judson and Soulen say a key for the SRV in tennis is strength in the middle school programs. Soulen’s mother, Suzie Robertson, ran the middle school and high school tennis programs in neighboring Ontario before moving to Fruitland and overseeing that district’s middle school program since 2009. 

Soulen followed suit after taking over the head coaching job at Weiser six years ago and the Wolverine middle school program has progressed from a recreational team through the local parks & recreation department to a sanctioned middle-school sport that, this spring, included 64 players.

“So far we've run a no-cut program at both levels and it’s the most rewarding moment when that 6th grader who has never played a sport before, has no hand-eye coordination, doesn't own a racket, falls in love with the game, and soon, though you would never have thought it possible, they become state qualifiers as seniors,” Soulen said.

Judson agrees.

“Parma has had a strong middle school tennis program for a long time. My first year coaching in 2008 was as an assistant to Gary Johnson, and he got our middle school program started that year,” Judson recalled. “I felt it was vital for us to keep that going when I became the head coach the next year to give our players a couple years of experience by the time they get to high school, rather than many picking up a racquet for the first time as a freshman in high school.”

He says he owes a lot of his program’s success to Robertson, who is retiring this spring.

“I hope we can find a new coach that can give at least a fraction of her passion and love for tennis and coaching,” he continued.

Weiser’s Grace Soulen took top honors for girls singles in the SRV’s district tournament. 

Payette’s Francesco Scarpelli won the boys singles bracket. Parma won the boys and girls doubles district titles while Fruitland’s number one tandem of Kaylee Benear and Logan Lloyd took the mixed doubles district title. Will they be able to carry their success in the tough District 3 tournament over to the state tournament this week? No doubt there will be a host of competitors from across the state, including the tough teams from Community School and Sugar Salem, who will be aiming to break the dominance of the SRV.

The 3A State tournament takes place at Ridgevue High School and Sage Valley Middle School in Nampa on Friday and Saturday.

 
 


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