Tessa Kern, the 2015 Mid-Willamette Conference girls tennis singles champion, was in a boot, nursing an injured foot, and watching her Corvallis High teammates take on Crescent Valley from the stands at CV on Wednesday afternoon.
Losing a top singles player would be a lot to overcome for most teams, but the Spartans have Tessa's freshman sister, Anna, to fill the spot.
Anna Kern, one of the top female USTA players in the Northwest in her age group, has been up to the challenge. On Wednesday she defeated CV's Caroline Doyle, 6-0, 6-1, and helped the Spartans to a 5-3 team win.
Kern used accurate passing shots and strong play at the net against Doyle, who finished third in the conference last season. The two have met on several occasions in tournaments.
"In our district she's definitely the best player, so I was trying to stick to my game plan, be aggressive and try to come in as often as possible," Kern said. "But just have fun, too, because she's a really nice person. It's fun to talk to her."
Kern has a built-in practice partner in Tessa and has been able to develop her game quickly through constantly working against high-level competition.
She said Tessa will even get up early so that she can get her younger sister warmed up.
"I practice with her a lot, we've played a lot of matches," Anna Kern said. "It's great having somebody that you can always hit with and when you go to tournaments she's always there to warm me up. So it's been great having someone to play with."
Playing her sister on a regular basis most likely prepared Anna Kern to come through with a surprise win over Madisyn Bryant two summers ago.
Bryant, a senior at Marist, is looking to win a fourth state singles title.
"It was actually a really great match," Kern said. "I did not expect to win it because she's a really good player. I kind of went out having nothing to lose and ended up winning. It was fun. It was probably one of my favorite wins that I've had.
"That was definitely a confidence-builder."
Doyle said she was happy with how she played in the second set and winning a game.
She went on the offensive and was hitting hard shots and more accurate serves.
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Doyle has played both Kern sisters several times and enjoys the experience.
"They're great players, their technique's amazing, they know how to compete and it's great playing against really good players who go out there and want to win," Doyle said. "I appreciate playing against people who really care about the sport and so anytime I play against either of the Kerns it's a great opportunity to improve and see what I need to keep doing so I can make it to the next level."
The Kerns just might end up playing each other at some point this season: Tessa could be back in time for districts.
"We definitely go back and forth whenever we play and it's always a fun match," Anna Kern said.
Corvallis' Courtney Romrell and Catrina Liner held off Lia Van Steeter and Anjali Chikkalingaiah at No. 1 doubles, 6-3, 6-4.
"I think we had great teamwork, talked well together and our shots were really good today," Liner said. "We were playing well."
Van Steeter and Chikkalingaiah were the MWC doubles champions last year, but Romrell and Liner played together two years ago as freshmen and have played the CV team several times.
"It's fun to play them. We know them from Timberhill (Tennis Club)," Romrell said. "So it's a fun opponent to play because we know them really well, but they're really tough."
"It's nice to play someone tough because it prepares us for state."
Sarah Huang and Megan Alder survived another marathon match against Colleen Corrigan and Olivia McGough of CHS at No. 2 doubles.
The teams went to three sets in the first meeting with Alder and Huang pulling away in the third for the win. This time it was down to the wire, with the CV pair holding on 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
"Today was a long one," Huang said. "You could definitely tell that they had improved and they definitely had come out with their strong game and so my partner and I were just trying to take it one point at a time and focusing more on each other than our opponents because we want to have a good match together and we want to do it regardless of who our opponents are."
Said Alder: "We wanted to come out hitting pretty hard because we always play better when we do that and we knew that they move a lot so we wanted to stay active the whole time, stay positive and focus on our game so that we could do better."