The 69th Inland Empire High School Tennis Tournament will be the largest in its history, with nearly 800 athletes from 53 schools taking part.
The tournament begins today at 12 sites throughout Spokane.
No. 1 girls singles will play its opening rounds at Mt. Spokane. No. 1 boys singles will open at University. Mead will play host to the opening rounds of No. 1 girls doubles play while Central Valley does the same for No. 1 boys doubles. Gonzaga Prep, Comstock Park, Rogers, Shadle Park, Hart Field, North Central and East Valley also are host sites.
Like the name implies, the tournament has drawn entries from around the area. Ellensburg as well as three Yakima-area schools Eisenhower, East Valley and West Valley all are entered, as are Wapato, Selah and Toppenish.
Eisenhower has not participated in the tournament for quite some time, tournament coordinator Bill Wagstaff said. This year, the Cadets send only their girls squad.
Chelan is a first-time participant and Tri-Cities regulars Richland, Kennewick, Hanford and Southridge will participate.
School size makes no difference in the tournament, with small schools like Clark Fork, Davenport, Lind-Ritzville-Sprague, Odessa-Harrington and St. George’s sending their best players and doubles teams to compete.
Wagstaff, the head boys coach at Mead, said the draw this year was so large that some sections have had to be moved around in order to get all of the early matches on the court on schedule.
There are challenges to playing in the tournament, Wagstaff pointed out. With entrants spread out throughout the area, making it a challenge for coaches and supervisors to accompany students. And as school budgets get tighter, Wagstaff said, travel for tennis tournaments can be difficult to afford.
Championship rounds in each bracket will be played Saturday at Mead, with players checking in at 8:15 a.m. and semifinal-round matches taking the court at 8:30. Championship matches begin at around 11 a.m.