DALLAS -- Last summer, getting enough people to play a few matches of competitive tennis was no easy task.
Usually, players resorted to begging their friends.
"(We would) text people, "Will you PLEASE play?" Dallas High senior Emily Koons said with a laugh.
This year, youths in the mid-Willamette Valley looking for summer tennis had a far better option: USTA Junior Team Tennis.
Spearheaded by a tennis mom -- Rose Gillette, mother of Allie Gillette, a senior player at Dallas High -- the area finally had its own place to play.
"What I've heard from (tennis) pros in the valley, this is the first time that (Junior Team Tennis) seems to have worked for a whole summer," Rose Gillette, the Mid-Willamette Valley Junior Team Tennis coordinator, said.
The league, comprised of teams from Dallas, Cascade, Woodburn and McMinnville programs, allowed around 90 players to participate in two matches a week from June 26 to July 26, along with team practices at least once a week.
"I've played more tennis than I ever have this summer," Koons said.
Those players interested and with enough regular-season matches under their belts are now gearing up for the final event of the summer, this weekend's JTT Sectionals at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center near Beaverton.
Dallas, which boasted three teams -- two 18-and-under and one 14-and-under -- this summer, is sending seven to sectionals: David Pauls, David Solvedt, Thomas Braun, Zach Foster, Bethany Steele, Allie Gillette and Mya Hoskisson, all members of the 18U squad.
Dallas High boys coach Travis Keating and longtime educator and coach Mary Christensen have both volunteered their time as coaches for the teams.
For Allie Gillette, it will be her third trip to sectionals -- in year's past, she was forced to qualify by attending tournaments in Coos Bay and Bend. She and her older brother, Caleb, finished as runners-up in the mixed doubles consolation finals a year ago.
Gillette said while she does miss the excitement of the travel to those tournaments, it doesn't compare with the amount of tennis she's played this year.
Photo by Nicole Watkins
Dallas’ Bethany Steele, left, and Emily Koons, share a laugh during doubles play Thursday.
"Usually, you would have to go to Timberhill (in Corvallis) and play against their people, or try to find people in Dallas, which is hard to do sometimes," Gillette said.
"This helps you get so much more match play -- every week I'm playing at least two matches."
The availability of Junior Team Tennis also allows players like Solvedt, a Dallas senior who has spent the last 10 or so years of his life concentrating on baseball, to pick up a racket and see what he can do.
"I figured I would start playing tennis because it's more of a lifelong sport," Solvedt, who injured his rotator cuff playing baseball, said.
"I don't know too much about tennis," he added with a laugh. "I've kind of just taken directions from everyone else. ... Been going with what I know."
Steele, who played in just enough matches to qualify for sectionals, said she's just excited to see tennis -- especially in Dallas -- make a move to the forefront.
"I hope it grows more and I'd like to get a lot more word out," the Dallas senior said.
"It's nice because we have all these younger kids (playing) and that's something I never got to do."
USTA JUNIOR TEAM TENNIS SECTIONALS
Tualatin Hills Tennis Center, Beaverton.