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Gonzaga Prep freshman Callah Preti warms up before a 4A district match at Central Valley High School on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga Prep freshman Callah Preti has excelled at tennis from coast to coast

High school can be tough for any 14-year-old, but Gonzaga Prep freshman Callah Preti had an interesting experience in the middle of her ninth-grade year.

In January, she was relocated more than 2,500 miles to Liberty Lake from her home in North Carolina when her father, Chris, took a new job.

From the moment the Pretis knew they were moving, the search was on for a new school.

Gonzaga Prep stood out from the rest and became an obvious choice for the Pretis, who are Catholic and wanted a school that held their same values.

“It is something I have always grown up with and being raised Catholic and going to Reconciliation in second grade, it has been an important part of my life,” Callah said. “Even if you want to win, you should lose (the same way) you win and vice versa and be a child of Christ regardless. I bring it onto the court as well, because God is with you in everything you do and I don’t forget that.”

Preti carries religion with her and it has served her well as she uses it to help her leadership role even though she is the youngest player on a varsity team that houses only two underclassmen.

“We have three kids, two of them are at Prep and they are athletic,” said Callah’s father Chris, whose son Caleb plays lacrosse for the Bullpups. “We were impressed with the facilities, the tennis courts, but also the weight facilities and the turf field for our boy.”

In March, two months after the move, Preti turned 15 and G-Prep began its tennis season against East Valley. Fast forward two more months to the 73rd Inland Empire Tournament to find she won No. 1 singles.

Add three wins over University senior and Whitworth-bound Katie Smithgall, one of the top players in the Greater Spokane League, and Preti has carved out a successful start to her high school career.

“I saw her and in three minutes I knew she was a top player, I knew it,” G-Prep coach Maria Scudiero said. “I could see it from her strokes, she is definitely groomed to play tennis and she plays a lot.”

Preti wasn’t sure what her plans were for high school athletics when she moved here. She plays in the junior circuit of the United States Tennis Association. Many of those athletes forgo their high school careers to focus on tournament play.

But after discussions with Scudiero and Jeff Urie, the director of tennis at the Spokane Club, Preti decided to do both.

“If Maria and Chanel (Scudiero, Maria’s daughter) weren’t the coaches, I don’t know if I would be playing (high school),” Preti said.

Chris Preti wanted her to go through the rigors and gain valuable experience from playing with a team.

“Tons of people have different views on high school sports, especially when you have a really good athlete, and both Jeff and Maria have espoused exactly what I believe in terms of doing both (the high school and junior circuits),” he said. “You can train, but you should absolutely participate in a team sport because of everything else that gets you.”

Callah has already scoped out possible landing spots after high school, specifically mentioning the University of Washington.

“I was able to see some of the campus and I really liked it,” she said. “A lot of my coaches have connections with the coaches there.”

Preti still has three more seasons and the rest of her first one before she makes her jump to the next level. She is headed to the regional tournament as the No. 1 seed from the GSL after winning districts.