Friday, November 4, 2005

Vicki Johnston takes over Wolverine tennis

BSU player brings skill, experience to the courts

Johnston takes a time out during a court session with Mats Wilander and John Miller at Hailey's Copper Ranch, where Johnston is the head professional.

For many people, the Wood River Valley is the place for sports. For Vicki Johnston, the valley is a place for tennis. Johnston, recently named head coach to the Wood River High School tennis team, has been playing competitive tennis in Idaho most of her life.

From Los Angeles originally, Johnston spent many summers in the valley, playing in summer tournaments at Warm Springs and in Sun Valley and also winning an Oregon doubles championship as a junior player. When it was time for her to pick a college, it seemed natural that she accept Boise State University's athletic scholarship offer.

At BSU, Johnston played singles and doubles from 1988 to '92. Throughout her time in Boise, Johnston, now 36, was never far removed from the Wood River Valley. She often made the drive into the mountains for competitions such as the Warm Springs Fourth of July tournament. Since a 1993 move, she has called the valley home.

Tennis runs in Johnston's blood. Her father, Jerry Boas, was a professional in southern California while Johnston was growing up. Boas had his career shaped by collegiate play at the University of Redlands..

"He taught lessons in our backyard, he was my coach my whole life," she said.

Boas eventually contributed heavily to the BSU tennis program in the early 90s, donating the Boas Tennis Center (or Tennis Bubble, as it is locally known) for year round, indoor play in Boise. While not coaching, Boas owned a warehousing company in southern California.

Johnston's uncle, Larry Collins, was also a ranked player, even playing in a Wimbledon doubles match during Johnston's youth.

In the past few years, Johnston's involvement with tennis in central Idaho has increased. In 2004, she won the Warm Springs Fourth of July women's doubles tournament with partner Deda Dunphy. This past summer, Johnston took the mixed doubles championships over Mark Scribner's team.

Scriber, former Community School coach, and Johnston have long standing tennis-ties in the valley. Once Scribner moved away from the area last year, he was instrumental in placing Johnston as the head pro at Hailey's Copper Ranch tennis club.

It was there that Johnston first met many Wolverine tennis players, such as Hadley Debree, the top girls singles ace.

"Wood River is deep down inside me," she said. "It's where I wanted to be because those were the kids taking lessons from me" at Copper Ridge.

At Copper Ridge, Johnston formed ideal cross-training and playing relationships with many players who she will coach this spring.

"I know a lot about tennis and I hope I can pass that on and make the kids excited to be part of the team and have some fun," she said.

With her youth and skill, Johnston should bring an element of partnership with the players.

"I'm not going to be standing on the sidelines telling them what to do. I'm going to be on the court with them, playing points and working out."

During the winter and spring season, Johnston will have a full schedule, balancing her high school coaching with her ongoing position as head pro at Copper Ridge.

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