It took 46 years for Timberline High School to get its first state girls’ tennis champion. Title No. 2 may not take nearly as long. Angela Schuster capped her undefeated sophomore season last year by rallying to win the Class 4A state championship.
Added strength for one – which is something Blazers’ coach Kristine Mosher said her standout player has increased drastically since last season. “Her serve is way better this year,” Mosher said. “She just has more power and better placement than she had before.”
Which is a scary thought if you’re on the other side of the court. Last year’s version of Schuster made few mistakes as a sophomore, cruising to 4A Narrows League and West Central District championships before dispatching Hannah Gianan of Camas in the state finals (2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4).
“That was definitely one of the main focuses coming into this season,” said Schuster about becoming stronger over the last 12 months. “I wanted to improve every aspect of my game, but strength was obviously a focus. It’s helped me become a better all-around player. I want to use the court more and put more pressure on the opponent. This will help with that.”
Thankfully, Schuster 2.0 is something rival 4A tennis players will not have to worry about this year, but the same can’t be said for those playing in the 3A ranks.
In an extremely odd occurrence, last year’s 4A champion (Schuster) and 3A titlist (Sumner’s Jade Lancaster) return – Schuster for her junior campaign and sophomore Lancaster to begin her second year of high school competition. Neither will get an opportunity to defend their crowns as Timberline bumps down a classification and the Spartans head up to 4A.
“I don’t think that’s ever happened before where both returning state champs have swapped spots,” Mosher declared. “So, she doesn’t have to worry about (Lancaster), but there’s plenty of others out there. There’s always new people who will come in and challenge her, and going from 4A to 3A will be an adjustment itself. Once you get to state, there’s going to be great players no matter what classification you’re in.”
It’s a challenge Schuster is excited about tackling.
She just needs the courts to finally dry up.
“That’s been the biggest obstacle so far this year,” Schuster said about the rainy conditions. “We’ve only had a couple of matches so far. We’ve practiced in the gym a lot, but it’s just not the same.”
Schuster, however, has not been lacking court time despite all the undesirable weather. A member of Tumwater Valley Athletic Club, she is a year-round player, participating in tournaments against the top talent in the Pacific Northwest.
“I did take a little break from tennis. It was only two weeks (in the summer), but I got so much out of it. When I stepped back out on the court I was ready to go again,” Schuster said. “It was nice to be away from it, but that was long enough for me.”
Behind Schuster’s performance, the Blazers took home the second-place trophy at last year’s state tournament.
The success has spiked renewed interest in the sport as this year’s roster is filled with several freshmen and first-year players, requiring Schuster to adopt a much large leadership role than the previous two seasons.
“That was actually a little different,” said Schuster, whose brothers, David and Michael, played tennis at the University of Hawaii and Gonzaga University, respectively, while father Keith played collegiately at the University of Washington. “It kind of surprised me at first. It hit me that I’m a junior now, but it’s been fun. Playing (in tournaments outside of high school) can be really intense. It’s a different level of tennis. No one really talks to anyone. They’re just all out there to win. Here you can develop those friendships. It’s a nice change of pace.”
Schuster will take a seven-match winning streak into this year’s state tournament. She dropped her first-round match as a freshman to eventual 4A state champion Sammi Hampton of Skyview before finishing fifth after winning three consecutive matches.
She swept her first three opponents last year before putting away Gianan in the state finals.
“Off the court, she’s just the same person she was last year. She just blends in with everyone. You wouldn’t know she was the state champion,” Mosher said. “Then she gets on the court and she is unbelievable.”