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A day at the East Idaho Invitational

Idaho Fall’s Rachel Harris and Whitney Black high five after defeating Sugar-Salem in a doubles match during the East Idaho Invitational on Friday at Sunnyside Courts. Black and Harris won 6-3. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com


Good fortune accommodated the start of the 13th annual East Idaho Invitational across Idaho Falls on Friday the 13th.

Thursday’s howling winds and snow gave way to sunshine Friday, allowing every participant to face three opponents in round robin play.

Dressed in layers and having a solid day in girls doubles at Sunnyside Courts was Idaho Falls High School duo Whitney Black and Rachel Harris. The sophomore-junior pair won all three matches Friday, defeating doubles teams from Sugar-Salem, Madison and Rigby.

This is their first season together as doubles partners. Harris previously played singles while Black played mixed doubles.

“It was our idea,” Harris said. “We practice together all the time. I enjoy singles, but I decided I was was tired of singles and wanted to try doubles.”

Both said becoming partners has prompted adjustments, but teaming up has brought success. They entered this weekend’s tournament undefeated.

“We’ve had to work hard because anytime you play with someone new, you have to figure out what they like,” Black said. “We’ve always been good friends on the team, so it’s gone well.”

Both bring extensive tennis backgrounds to their partnership. Black followed her older sister into tennis seven years ago while Harris started at age 7 and is the youngest of five siblings to play for I.F.

Harris has been to state and Black has not, and the two aspire to take their momentum farther in the second half of the season.

“We are hoping we can get a win at districts,” Black said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

“It was great to be able to play different competition (at state),” Harris said. “It gave me motivation for my junior and senior years.”

Bonneville High’s Kyle Johnson returns a serve from Burley’s Tyler Gerratt during the East Idaho Invitational on Friday at Hillcrest High School. Johnson won the tiebreaker 7-2. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

A short drive east of Sunnyside, Sugar-Salem’s Logan Jones had concluded his day one matches in boys singles by 4:30 p.m. at Hillcrest’s courts. One of eastern Idaho’s few 3A tennis teams, Sugar-Salem regularly plays 5A and 4A teams. Jones faced opponents from 5A Highland and Eagle and 4A Century on Friday, dropping all three matches, but he said he had fun playing in his first East Idaho Invitational.

“I love to play tennis no matter who or what,” Jones said. “Last year I was on JV and watched (this tournament), but didn’t play. It’s a great learning experience.”

His experience was not hindered by strong winds during his final match, either. While others on the same court kept their layers, Jones shed his jacket shortly into the match and continued playing in a polo shirt and shorts.

“I like to keep it light,” Jones said.

The sophomore said he enjoys tournaments like this weekend’s as well as the camaraderie of the Diggers.

“They support you no matter how you do,” Jones said.

By the time Jones ended his day, Hillcrest junior Marie Phelan was about to end hers in girls singles at Bonneville’s courts. She defeated opponents from Community School, Sugar-Salem and Skyline to begin her first East Idaho Invitational 3-0.

“It’s great to see a lot of the players you’ve faced earlier in the season and see how they do against other people,” Phelan said. “The back to back matches are nice, too. It’s like that at Capital (Invitational in Boise).”

Phelan has met players from across eastern Idaho since taking up tennis in eighth grade. She credited the Harkers of Bonneville for piquing her interest and Apple Athletic Club’s indoor courts for providing a place to practice and make friends.

“Even some Madison players come down to Apple,” Phelan said. “I try to hit as much as I can and I also take lessons with (Hillcrest head coach) Heath (Hartman).”

Matching Phelan’s success Friday was teammate Grace Ence. A senior, Ence returned to eastern Idaho after living in Hawaii for four years and is currently Hillcrest’s No. 1 in girls singles while Phelan is No. 2.

“She’s really good,” Phelan said. “We’re both competitive, but we’re good friends.”

The tournament resumes at 9 a.m. today at the same venues as Friday: girls singles at Bonneville, boys singles at Hillcrest, girls doubles at Sunnyside, boys doubles at Idaho Falls High School and mixed doubles at Tautphaus Park.

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