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Even tennis programs feel squeeze of budget crunches

As high school sports go, tennis isn’t particularly expensive. When you consider that many players go on to continue playing the game for decades, it’s a downright bargain.

Still, budget crunches take a toll.

Longtime Central Valley girls tennis coach Stan Chalich understands it all and, in his fifth decade of coaching, has learned to work around the constraints.

“We’ve worked around them as much as we can,” he said. “My budget is $500, and that doesn’t go very far. My kids designed their own uniforms and they paid for them themselves. We have a group of people who donate tennis balls to the program, otherwise that would take the whole budget.”

This year Chalich had to replace three nets on the school’s courts, which wiped out his entire budget for the season.

“I’m trying to get the school to pay for them since it’s really for the community at large and not just for girls tennis,” he said. “A lot of people come to the school to use these courts and it wouldn’t say much about the district if the nets were tattered and torn.”

Chalich personally invests heavily in the program.

“I don’t usually tell people this, but I always put my whole (coaching stipend) check into the program,” he said. “Otherwise we couldn’t do very much for these kids.”

Pleasant surprise

Kyra Harmes is a something of a CV surprise.

After graduating four-year varsity standout Leslie Ho last spring, Chalich knew his 2013 team would be very young, with freshmen and sophomores playing large roles.

Harmes came in with a pedigree, the coach explained.

“She’s working to crack the USTA rankings for the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “But she’s been very good as our No. 1 singles. She played a great match against Mead. She lost that match, but it was because her opponent just starting to lob against her and she got frustrated. I think if they play again, it will be a different story.”

Ho has been helping the team out. “Leslie wants to play at Eastern Washington,” Chalich explained. “But she wants to wait until they hire a full-time coach so she can challenge for one of the team’s scholarships.

“Meanwhile, I’ve had her out here with us, hitting with the girls and helping out. I also have her on a weight-lifting program so she can be ready when the new coach gets there.”

Once a Panther…

Chelsea Motzer’s imprint remains on the Mead girls tennis team, even though the former standout graduated a year ago.

“I’m so proud of Chelsea,” Mead girls coach Lynn Coleman said. “She loves to design things and she designed our team T-shirt this year. Our varsity wears it on occasion and our JV and freshmen wear it as their team uniform.

“She designed our Inland Empire tournament T-shirt this year and she even designed a new Mead Panther logo for us. I gave that over to our new athletic director and he loved it.”

While Motzer attends the University of Washington, the job of being the Panthers’ No. 1 singles player has fallen to her younger sister, Micca.

“Micca was the No. 3 singles player for us last year,” Coleman said. “I’ve been impressed with how much her game has grown. She’s learned a lot and grown and gotten a lot stronger, not just physically, but the mental part of her game has gotten stronger.”