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Club tennis defends title with help from new president

If you enter the indoor tennis courts behind Jane Saunders stadium each Monday and Wednesday evening, you can’t help but notice the sound echoing throughout the gym. The noise can only be compared to the sound of popcorn in the microwave.

The pops are few at first, some far away and some closer. As the court fills with players, the sound get louder and faster until a medley of pops fills the room.

But it isn’t popcorn making these thumps; it’s tennis balls. And the athletes smashing them into the court aren’t just tennis players; they’re defending regional champions.

Oregon club tennis beat Gonzaga to win the regional tournament last year and advance to nationals in North Carolina. But this year, after losing talented seniors to graduation and one player to the Oregon women’s tennis team, the club added 13 new members and elected a new president, Emily Plutsky, to help defend its title.

“Although we lost some really good senior players and leaders, we brought in a very talented and energetic new group,” vice president of the team Joe Palodichuk said.

The new additions include eight men and five women, a great deal more than had been accepted in year’s past. And while Plutsky has been learning how to coach and lead a new group, she says much of the new team’s talent comes naturally.

“This squad is so good,” Plutsky said. “And already the team is just fun.”

James McAndrew is one of those new additions. The junior finds that the club setting allows him a place to “have a competition, but also have that friendly atmosphere.”

The team had its first competition at the end of October when Portland State made the trek to Eugene to play the Ducks.

“What’s really nice about club tennis is that you can just reach out to different clubs,” Plutsky said. “Portland State, UP, OSU, they’re all really close. So, it’s easy to communicate and have them come here or us go there.”

The Ducks will travel to Yakima for their upcoming tournament on November 13.

To prepare for that tournament, Plutsky has been coordinating teams into three flights based on ability. Rather than grouping the players depending on her perspective alone, Plutsky allows team members to choose their favorite format (singles or doubles) and challenge if they believe they deserve a better position.

“Emily is very in touch with the other players on the team,” Palodichuk said. “She is respectful of people’s opinions and thoughts but also is firm in her decisions.”

Palodichuk and Plutsky’s goal for the season is to maintain Oregon’s status as regional champions, but for both, having a group that gets along is also important.

“Outside of tournament play, it is always a goal of ours to be a tight-knit team,” Palodichuk said. “Many of my best friends have resulted from being on club tennis.”

For the Yakima tournament, Plutsky is especially excited because she recalls the club team’s last trip to Yakima two years ago as the one that brought the team together.

“That’s what made our team so much better in every way,” Plutsky said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Follow Madison Layton on Twitter @MadisonLayton01

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Madison Layton

Madison Layton