Leilani Gonzalez is not the first tennis player to qualify for state and not play.
And she won’t be the last.
Some things are just bigger than state tennis.
Last year as a Skyview freshman, Gonzalez went undefeated during the 4A Greater St. Helens girls tennis season and only lost two matches all season. She won the district title. She was named the league’s player of the year. She placed sixth at bi-district to earn her state berth.
“I knew from the first game of my freshman year,” Gonzalez said recently as she prepared for what she hopes will be her sophomore season. “I knew that even if I made it to state, I wasn’t going to be able to play. But I still played hard.”
Gonzalez had her quinsinera — a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday — during the state tournament.
The coming-of-age party is a big deal, something you don’t want to miss. How many times does someone turn 15 anyway?
“I’ve been planning this for years,” Gonzalez said. “We had a mass, this whole ceremony. Afterwards, my favorite part personally, is the party.”
The huge party had lots of friends and family in attendance.
“It was just a huge celebration that I greatly enjoyed,” she said.
Skyview coach Jay Gowen said Gonzalez is the type of player and student who is always positive and takes everything in stride. But mostly that her “faith, family, and devotion to the things that matter most will not be compromised,” he said.
“She’s a great tennis player, but she’s family and faith first,” he said. “She handled it great last year. I was disappointed for her because I never take these trips to state for granted.”
Gonzalez says she hopes to qualify again for state.
“At least I think I will,” she said. “Now I know what the sort of competition I have, what the level is at district and regional events.”
Gonzalez added something new to her athletic life this year by going out for basketball at Skyview and was on the C team. She also recently took part in the state DECA competition.
Gowen is all for his tennis players doing something more than just tennis.
“When I heard about Leilani’s love for basketball, I was excited,” Gowen said. “Each sport has its own specific skills and attributes that help players to become well rounded and improve in certain traits.”
He mentioned how basketball has helped Gonzalez’s speed, agility, quickness as well as lateral and horizontal movements on the tennis court. Not to mention being well conditioned for tennis.
“She was one of our only players who wasn’t winded after playing three hours of competitive tennis sets at the jamboree because of how basketball helped her,” Gowen said.
And as with any athlete, Gonzalez says she knows there are lots of things she can improve in her tennis game.
“There’s always something to improve in my game,” she said. “But right now I feel my game is pretty solid. I have a good foundation.”