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A net gain for Forest Lake ace

After three-year undefeated singles run, Hanson set to play doubles at section tournament
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LAKE OF THE PINES — When Caitlin Hanson’s asthma flared up under a scorching sun Monday in Marysville, she knew her run at the Golden Empire League singles tournament would be short-lived. Against coach Steve Robinson’s advice, she labored through the entire match. “That’s just the player she is,” said Robinson, Forest Lake Christian’s ninth-year coach. “She’d never forfeit.” Still short of breath, Hanson hadn’t even cooled off completely before she started begging her coach for the second chance she and fellow senior Jen Menary had dreamed of for two years. “When I realized I wasn’t going to sections in singles I turn to Mr. Robinson and go, ‘So me and Jen, right?” she said. Close friends and volleyball teammates since their freshman year, Hanson and Menary have long pleaded with Robinson to pair them up again after they advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals as a sophomore doubles duo. The coach resisted, keeping the top of the Falcons’ impressive singles ladder intact throughout league play each spring. He finally obliged. “She was whoop-de-dooing up one side and down the other,” Robinson said of Hanson. “They just want to play together again.” After recently capping her third straight undefeated GEL season as a singles player, Hanson finds much more than consolation in advancing to the section doubles tournament. “It’s actually a relief, because I did so much better with Jen sophomore year in doubles than I did last year at sections in singles,” she said. “I’m going to have someone with me to laugh with and hang out with. We’ll encourage each other to go further. I wouldn’t have hoped to get asthma so I could go to doubles, but it worked out perfectly.” Hanson, a volleyball outside hitter, and Menary, a setter, are also complementary on the tennis court despite different styles. Hanson “plays a little bit of chess” with her opponents, according to her coach. Menary’s game is less strategy and more power. “Their styles are contrasting but their minds and their hearts are connected,” Robinson said. “It’s a riot to watch them, really. They’re two completely different players. There are little or no similarities to how they approach their hitting or how they move, but they’re so effective together.” They’ll be joined next week by the mixed doubles pair of Nathan Burnett and Amanda Timmerman, a surprise qualifier for the Division III tournament. Burnett, a sophomore who played No. 1 boys doubles all season, and Timmerman, a junior girls doubles star, had never played together before this week’s GEL tournament. Robinson spent nearly three hours perfecting the pairings. “I looked at it and played everything out,” he said. “I thought it was a shot in the dark and we’ll see what happens. They performed great.” No one on Forest Lake’s ladder has been better than Hanson over the last three seasons, though. Her older sister encouraged her to pick a racket up in high school so they could play together during the only year they overlapped at FLC. “She said, ‘Hey, we can’t play volleyball but we can play tennis together,’” Hanson said. “I wasn’t really thinking about doing it until she brought it up.” As Hanson rolled past GEL opponents match after match, she wasn’t focused on that, either. “The only time I thought about it was the very last match with Lindhurst,” said Hanson, who won the third set 7-5 to preserve perfection. “I was like, ‘Man, I can either loose it all here or do it.’ I was exhausted, but my mom was freaking out. She was screaming. I said ‘Mom, this is a quiet sport.’” Hanson has made plenty of noise on the court and in the classroom. The straight-A student plans to attend Pacific Union College near Napa in the fall. The Seventh-day Adventist college does not offer competitive tennis, “so volleyball would be the choice if I did play one,” Hanson said. “School is coming first, but if I do choose a sport it’ll be volleyball,” she added. “I’ll play tennis, like intramurals. Tennis is something I’ll play my whole life somehow.” Hanson and Menary will enjoy their last match together no matter how far they advance. “With me and Jen, we can’t not have fun,” Hanson said. “We’re always laughing on the court, but we’d like to go further than we went our sophomore year.” The first two rounds will be held next Thursday morning at Oak Park Tennis Courts in Stockton.