A conditioned crew of Sailors

Bryce Alderton

Crews at Newport Harbor High spent three weeks this summer

resurfacing the tennis courts, filling in the cracks that had slowly

slithered their way through the concrete over the years.

The school's girls tennis team also had some sizable holes to fill

from a year ago, with the departure of four players who each advanced

to the round of 16 in the CIF Southern Section Division I doubles

tournament.

But Coach Fletcher Olson, entering her 10th year at the helm,

welcomes a healthy dose of newcomers to compliment five returners

from a team that went 14-6, winning a share of the Sea View League

title with Woodbridge before advancing to the second round of the CIF

Division I playoffs.

"The girls came back well prepared," Olson, the school's girls

athletic director, said. "They worked hard over the summer because

they know they needed to work hard. It will be a tough year."

The Tars lost four to graduation from last year's squad, including

Vanessa Dunlap and Bonnie Adams, who claimed the Sea View League

doubles crown with a victory over teammates A.J. Olson and Diana

Khoury. Both doubles teams reached the round of 16 in the CIF doubles

tournament.

But Fletcher Olson, with the help of trainer Cam Williams, has

started this year's squad on a conditioning program that includes

weightlifting in addition to the cardiovascular training they get

when on the court.

Players spend one hour a week in full-body training and Olson

expects the program to continue once the season starts.

"We found it really helps in defeating any kind of injuries,"

Olson said. "We've ramped it up a bit to help the kids."

Olson hopes the added exercises will help prevent injuries and

prepare the Tars for a schedule that includes nonleague duels with

perennial strongholds Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach and Troy in

addition to a league slate featuring two matches each with Woodbridge

and Foothill.

Several Newport players participated in summer tournaments, also

helping to hone their games, Olson said.

Among them are returning juniors Brittanny Sturgess, Carly Adams

and Megan McKay along with sophomores Chrissy Schwartz and Sasha

Dunlap.

Sturgess reached the quarterfinals of the girls 16s singles draw in the Costa Mesa Junior Tennis Classic while teaming with McKay to

advance to the girls 16s doubles quarterfinals in the same

tournament.

Teammates Jill Casserly and Melissa Chinn, both juniors, also

reached the girls 16s doubles quarterfinals. Casserly and Chinn both

reached the league singles finals while playing on Newport's junior

varsity team, which went 19-0 last season.

"[Casserly and Chinn] have a lot of experience playing together in

[United States Tennis Association] and [Southern California Tennis

Association] tournaments," Olson said. "They have really improved

their singles games over the summer."

Newport will also be bolstered with the additions of seniors

Brittany Nelson and Brittany Edmonston, juniors Brittany Cluck and

Gabrielle Nestande, and with freshman Alex McIntosh, sister of Krista

McIntosh, a three-year varsity member who graduated in 2003.

Olson said much of practices will focus on developing doubles

strategies along with overall tactics.

Brooke Taylor, who played for Olson at Newport before moving on to

the University of Arizona, enters her second year as assistant coach.

Olson said Taylor will provide valuable instruction, especially in

doubles.

The Sailors began practicing on the resurfaced courts Aug. 23 for

their nonleague opener against visiting Costa Mesa Sept. 10.

Players will work not only on improving their games, but also

learning how balls bounce off the new courts, sans cracks.

"[The courts] are a little slower that the old surface, but the

old ones were so slick that anything would seen slow after what we

had," Olson said. "Gone are those local bounces [from the cracks].

We'll have to relearn those."

The Sailors will attempt to foster further unity with weekly team

dinners.

But Olson has already caught a glimpse of what the future might

hold.

"They have a lot of fun," Olson said of her players. "These are

great kids. We have good chemistry on this team."

Newport has dedicated Court No. 1 to Charlie Bleiker, who coached

boys and girls at Newport for 28 years before his sudden death in

August 2003 at age 66.

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