Bailey Bell
PHS girls tennis coach Greg Thorson said about Bailey Bell: "She’s very quick and very smart." (File photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

The Philomath High girls tennis team will sport a familiar look this season with the No. 1 singles player back on the court. But the program will also receive a boost through the addition of a head coach who can focus solely on the girls and a freshman with the ability to have an immediate impact on the varsity.

During the offseason, PHS reorganized its tennis coaching assignments with Gary Quandt scaling back to work only with the boys. Meanwhile, former longtime Sandy tennis coach Greg Thorson has taken over the girls program.

Thorson hasn’t been able to do too much with limits on practice through the first couple of weeks but he believes the team should be strong at No. 1 and No. 2 singles.

Sophomore Bailey Bell headlines the group of returnees for Philomath.

“She’s very quick and very smart,” Thorson said. “I’d say the bottom line of her game is, of course, topspin and retrieving — she gets everything back. And she’s slowly starting to develop some more weapons, that’s one of the things we want to concentrate on this year — weapons where she can go for offensive wins.”

Freshman Adele Beckstead joins the program and the coach anticipates her sliding right in to the No. 2 singles spot.

“She’s a parent-developed player and she’s very good,” Thorson said. “She doesn’t have the (varsity) experience yet and I haven’t seen her play yet but I know she’s mentally tough because she’s a long-distance runner.”

Bell and Beckstead should be among the best at regionals.

“We have an outside shot at finishing 1-2 at region,” said Thorson, explaining that one of the top singles players from last season in the region is at a school that will not field a team. “So, it’s wide open … there will probably be someone at Cascade” that will challenge.

Among Philomath’s other returnees, K Bacho will be back for her senior season. The doubles team of Nadia Durski and Lorelei Schell will again play together.

“My biggest decision to make is who’s going to play with K,” Thorson said. “I’ve got two new girls that I’m looking at.”

Sophie Robinson hasn’t played since her freshman season but is now back for a final run as a senior. Sophomores Daniella Carlisle, Elise Reese, Megan Reese and Abigail Workman are also back.

In all, Thorson has 21 girls in the program — a third of those are freshmen and a crop of five newcomer juniors are also on the roster.

Thorson’s background includes collegiate tennis at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where he said he flourished under a great coach.

Thorson, 69, coached Sandy’s boys tennis team for 12 years — his sons among the players that went through during that time.

“Then I was done but my daughter came to me and said, ‘Dad, I waited until you were done with the boys and now I want you to coach me,’” Thorson said. “So, I took on the girls and I did that for 15 years.”

That’s 27 seasons in all.

K Bacho returns for her senior season with the tennis program. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

“About three years after we took over the girls, I had some really good assistant coaches,” Thorson added. “We were the only school in our league that didn’t have a private club near us — it was 35 minutes away, the closest one. So there’s no way we’re going to be able to compete unless we started our kids earlier than the ninth grade.”

As a result, the Sandy Tennis Academy was established with coaches working with girls twice a week during the summer.

“We went from being a sub-.500- team to winning league numerous times … That was a fun experience.”

Could a tennis academy be on its way to Philomath?

“Gary and I both committed to starting this summer to bring on some junior high kids and start teaching them early,” Thorson said.

Thorson is being assisted this season by Sammi Lehmann.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.