College tennis: Wilsonville alumnae Miolla, Jernstedt cross paths
The former doubles partners meet in singles competition as Division III student-athletes.
Gretchen Jernstedt and Catherine Miolla arent used to being on opposite sides of the net.
Close friends since meeting in second grade at Boeckman Creek Primary School, they were natural doubles partners on the Wilsonville High girls tennis team.
But a new chapter in their relationship began this past February, when the Pacific Lutheran University womens tennis team traveled to McMinnville to face Linfield College for a Northwest Conference duel.
After all of those years playing together, the Class of 2011 alumnae found themselves on the same court yet again but competing for different Division III teams.
That was an interesting one, said Jernstedt, a sophomore at Linfield. I dont think we knew wed be playing each other. It was funny. Weve never really had to play each other. I just wanted to have fun.
Added Miolla, a sophomore at PLU: It was foreign to us. To play against each other was definitely a new experience. It was fun. It was interesting because we had to be competitive. We were both trying to get the point for our teams. And because Im so used to her style, I could kind of predict some of what was coming.
By the end of the day, each athlete had something to celebrate. Jernstedt ended up winning the No. 5 singles match against her former teammate in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, while Miolla and Pacific Lutheran snapped a 27-match league losing streak with a 5-4 team triumph.
And, although in separate environments, both players have continued fine-tuning their tennis skills since graduating from high school two years ago.
Jernstedts introduction to collegiate tennis was somewhat abrupt.
Due to a teammates injury, she was asked by Linfield coach Amy Dames Smith to compete at No. 6 singles as a freshman during the 2012 conference tournament championship.
It was her first varsity match.
I didnt even know I was going to be playing until the doubles matches were finished, she said. We had a break between double and singles, and after the doubles ended my coach came up to me and said, Youre going to play six singles. So I didnt have a chance to get nervous. Id been practicing during the season and had some match experience, but not in the top six, so to break in and play there was intimidating.
Jernstedt lost to Whitmans Emily Rolston in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, and Linfield fell 5-1 despite sweeping Whitman during the regular season.
That was tough, she said. That was a tough loss for our team. But it gave me a lot of good experience.
It certainly did. Jernstedt went from playing one match in her first year to competing in 35 as a sophomore this past season.
She was 9-8 in singles competition, demonstrating poise by logging three-set victories against Whitmans Maddy Webster at No. 5 in February, Puget Sounds Josephine Dow at No. 5 in March and Pacific Lutherans Allison McClure at No. 6 in April.
Jernstedt added three doubles victories with teammate Lexi Thomas, the highlight a 9-8 (7-2) tiebreaker decision against Willamette in April.
Although she is more experienced in doubles play, Jernstedt has committed herself to learning the nuances of singles competition. She has been named her teams most improved player in each of the last two seasons.
There was an adjustment to playing both, but Ive grown to like singles a lot, she said. Freshman year, I thought I was a doubles player. But after having all these matches, Ive come to like it. Its good that we get to play both.
Halfway through her collegiate career, Jernstedt is considering physical therapy as a potential career field. She is majoring in exercise science.
Shes also enjoying her time with the Linfield womens tennis team, a perennial league contender that was 8-10 overall this past year.
Im really happy I could keep playing after high school, she said. A lot of people dont get to do that.
Miolla knew shed play some singles matches when she joined the womens tennis team at Pacific Lutheran.
But that knowledge didnt make the transition any easier.
Its really an adjustment for me because I only played doubles in high school, she said. When I got to PLU, thats when I started playing singles. Its a whole new strategic game in terms of where you hit and how you recover. The whole game is so different.
Miolla has accepted the challenge of learning the singles game since arriving at the private school in Tacoma, Wash., where she plays for coach Lorrie Wood.
She played primarily on the No. 6 court as a freshman, finishing the year with five singles wins and a 1-3 mark in doubles competition.
Miolla gained some experience at No. 4 singles this past season, going 4-13 in individual play while winning three of her six doubles matches.
Its funny because I do like singles now that Ive gotten used to it, she said. Singles is a lot more physical than doubles. Its a different style. Its definitely a workout.
Miolla has also grown as a doubles partner. Whereas at Wilsonville she was more of a reactionary player, she is becoming more of an activist as a member of the Lutes.
In terms of my strokes, Ive developed my forehand a lot more, adding aggression to my forehand and game as a whole, she said. Ive really worked on being aggressive at the net in doubles. In high school I was more of a defensive player, but the major switch is just adding aggression to my game. Im also working on my footwork a lot to try to get faster.
Miollas team has mirrored her progress, engineering a promising 2013 after a difficult 2012. A year after going winless in Northwest Conference play and 1-17 overall, Pacific Lutheran went 7-10 and took five league victories.
For Miolla, who is studying business administration with emphases on human resources and nonprofit management, her time-consuming commitment to collegiate tennis has paid off in many ways.
Its a much bigger commitment than high school was ... and it involves a lot more traveling, but I really like it, she said. The girls are really nice, and we all get along well. It helps me manage my time because I have scheduled chunks of tennis. Its a good motivator and also good exercise.
Even as Jernstedt and Miolla create new memories with their respective teams, their experiences as doubles partners at Wilsonville wont soon be forgotten.
As sophomores, they earned the first of their three bids to the OSAA state championships. As juniors, they reached the Class 5A quarterfinals. As seniors, they advanced to the state consolation quarterfinals.
Still, their landmark achievement was arguably their district doubles title in their final season with the Wildcats.
After three years of failing to live up to their No. 1 seed, the pair reached the district finals for the first time in 2011 and ousted top-ranked Sherwood partners Nancy Nguyen and Melinda Widows, 6-2, 6-1, to snag first place.
That was the first year we really succeeded, Miolla said. That was cool. We had worked so hard together.
The close friends were also part of a special era at Wilsonville, which won back-to-back state championships in 2010-11 under then-coach Mike Farrell.
We were able to have fun, Jernstedt said. We realized that it was our last season and just enjoyed it. To peak at that time was a good feeling. Its fun to think back on that.