Auburn freshman Lauren Thornquist looks to make a racket at state | Tennis

Auburn's No. 1 singles player, freshman Lauren Thornquist, was honored with the SPSL Central 4A Player of the Year awared for her undefeated regular season. Thornquist travels to Vancouver, Wash. for the state 4A girls tourney on Friday.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Crystal Wisness

It’s been an exceptional season for Lauren Thornquist and the Auburn girls tennis program.

The freshman phenom not only put together an impressive 9-0 season as Auburn’s No. 1 singles player, but she also helped drive the Trojans to an undefeated South Puget Sound League Central 4A title.

Along the way, Thornquist was chosen SPSL Central 4A Player of the Year.

Last weekend Thornquist capped a stellar season by capturing the No. 6 seed out of the West Central District tournament into this weekend’s state 4A matches in Vancouver.

Play begins Friday and concludes Saturday.

“I was surprised a little bit, but I was just happy I went undefeated and made it to state this season because I worked hard,” Thornquist said. “I’m glad I took the time to take lessons and practice hard because it paid off.

“I was really happy when we won league. I kind of thought we had a chance because we had so many really talented seniors on our team,” she said. “It was really exciting for our team.”

Thornquist’s journey began when she took lessons at Kent’s Boeing Tennis Center at the age of 9.

After five years playing under the tutelage of head pro Allan Overland, Thornquist turned out and made the Auburn varsity squad this season.

Auburn coach Crystal Wisness remembers Thornquist’s early practices.

“The first couple of days, I’d heard about her and was curious if the rumors were true,” Wisness said. “Then I hit with her and was just instantly impressed. Her fundamentals are just sound.”

The coach then worked on Thornquist’s mental approach to the game.

“It was so much fun for me to push her along in that way,” Wisness said. “One of my favorite coaching moments has been watching her respond and find that passion and fire. There were a couple of matches this year where she won because of that, where she just outlasted her opponents.”

The addition of Thornquist was the final piece of the puzzle for the Trojans, the coach said.

"For the team, it's nice to have that tough No. 1," Wisness said. "Put that together with a strong No. 2 singles (senior Sandi Mihaylova) and No. 1 doubles (senior Peyton Prothero and junior Karen Wentzke), and that can get us wins. Those four players are responsible for our success this season."

After running the table in league play, the Trojans swung into the sub-district tourney where Thornquist suffered her first loss, to Kentridge's Katelyn Overland.

"I didn't really know what to expect, and I was really nervous because there were so many girls from different schools," Thornquist said. "But once I got out there and started hitting the ball, it came. I was calm and knew what to do. It was a good match, and she is a really good player."

Thornquist bounced back to qualify for district.

"I've lost before (in club competition) so it wasn't really new to me," she said. "I just try to take it match by match. There is nothing I can really do after I lose but move on and try to do better the next one."

At district, Thornquist again faced adversity, losing her first-round match to Union's Jelena Vidovic. The loss forced Thornquist into the consolation bracket where she found herself paired against teammate Mihaylova in a loser-out match.

Thornquist eliminated Mihaylova, 6-2, 6-4, in their first meeting.

"The win was bittersweet," she said. "Sandi is one of my really close friends. I really got to know her over the season. It was tough but it was a win."

Wisness called the experience awful, but added that she was proud of both players.

"(Mihaylova) had a great, unexpected season. She's really blossomed," Wisness said. "She played the best tennis of her life at districts. It was a great way to go out. It was almost like a passing of the torch to Lauren."

Thornquist's victories over Kentlake's Kara Ikeda (7-5, 6-3) and Jefferson's Cindy Park (6-4, 6-1) set up her final match against South Kitsap's Kalyn Skjonsby for the fifth and sixth seeds to state. Thornquist lost, 6-3, 6-1.

Now it's on to state for the freshman.

"I'm a little nervous, but I'm just glad to have made it this far," Thornquist said. "I never expected to make it to state this year. I just wanted to try my best and see how far that would take me. So making it to state really felt good for me."

For Thornquist, the future appears bright.

"I don't think I'll be making any plans for Memorial Day when they have state for the next three years," she said.

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