Meadowdale's Josie Dow caught the tennis bug late in life.
The Maverick senior is making up for lost time, though.
Dow got really serious about tennis her sophomore year when she played No. 2 singles. She moved up to the No. 1 slot last year and demonstrated she had upped her game by winning the Western Conference 3A singles title. Dow finished third at the district tournament and advanced to state where she went 1-2.
In preparation for her senior year, Dow immersed herself in the sport last summer.
“I was coaching in the morning and playing in the afternoon,” Dow said. “Then I'd go play at Harbor Square and then a different camp. I was just going all day long. That's just what I love.
“I was looking to take tennis to the next level.”
The road to the Class 3A state tournament is more difficult this season since a number of schools with elite players have dropped down to 3A this year.
“It's definitely going to be tough this year,” Dow said. “There are going to be some long matches out there.” Meadowdale coach Mark Schneider predicts that Dow will do just fine.
“I don't think it's going to impact Josie,” he said. “She's still the same athlete as she was last year. She's going to do just as well this year.”
If she should make it back to state, Dow feels she is better prepared to handle the pressure. Last year's tournament was a learning experience.
During a critical tiebreaker point in a first-round match last year, a ball was hit out but because a post was blocking her view, Dow didn't see it. Instead of asking an official for a ruling, Dow assumed the ball was in and she lost the point.
“I'm learning what to do with the referee,” Dow said. “You always have to question if you're unsure.”
Dow strengthened her fundamentals during the summer and expects all her hard work to pay off in the postseason.
“I just feel like I'm not going to break down as much in the tougher situations,” Dow said. “They say if you're not as fundamentally sound, when you get nervous or when you get tight, that stuff is going to revert back.
“I'm really working at keeping all that I've learned and showing it on the court.”
Dow's confidence level also is much higher. She admitted that she sometimes felt like the underdog going up against players with more experience.
“I played a lot of tough girls since last year,” Dow said. “I feel like I can definitely hang with these girls.”
Like many elite tennis players Dow started playing when she was young but then her focus shifted.
“I played tennis in the fifth grade, just like rec in the summer. It was really relaxed,” Dow said. “Then I quit for soccer.”
Eventually, Dow realized that soccer wasn't the sport for her and she decided to go back to tennis as she entered high school.
“It's been my main sport ever since,” Dow said.
And it's a sport Dow hopes to continue playing in college at the University of Puget Sound. The school is Division III, which means players try out for the team.
Earlier this month, Dow attended a match between Puget Sound and Whitman College and had the opportunity to see former teammate Olivia Bates, who plays for Whitman.
“I felt like I could definitely step up and play at that level,” Dow said. “It's something I can work and strive for. I'll definitely be working a lot on my tennis over the summer.”
Right now Dow is focused on preparing for the postseason. A wrist injury kept her on the sidelines from November through January. The start of the high school season marked the return of Dow to serious competition. The wet spring weather, however has limited Meadowdale's opportunity to practice outside.
As a result, the regular season has taken on an added importance as Dow uses matches to continue to refine her skills.
“I definitely have a lot more confidence that I can really prove myself this year,” Dow said. “I just have to play my best. There's nothing to lose now. It's my senior year.”