After coaching at the state’s top level, Redmond High’s new girls tennis coach has come home.

Kelli Tusow played tennis at Redmond before graduating in 2004. She went on to play tennis at Linfield College in McMinnville and serve as head coach for four years at Class 6A Forest Grove.

The social studies teacher spent the 2016-17 school year teaching at Crook County High before joining her husband, Trevor, as a teacher in Redmond for the current school year. She jumped at the chance to replace former coach Barb Sneckner when the tennis job came open.

“I knew they were looking for a coach, I knew, at some point, I would like to get back into coaching,” Tusow said. “I was looking for the right place at the right time.”

Tusow wants to build a mindset that girls tennis can be one of the top sports at the school.

“It’s been a fringe sport that kids do casually,” she said. “I want to step that up and make it stronger and more committed and build a new mindset around it.”

While she doesn’t expect all tennis players to give up on other sports, Tusow works to show players the benefits of committing more to the sport.

“I was involved with other sports, but, once I made tennis my No. 1 sport, I became astronomically better,” she said. “Once they make tennis a priority in their life, they can be so much better and really reach their true potential.”

Despite having some matches called off because of weather, the Panthers got off to a 3-0 start before losing 7-1 at Bend April 12. They started the year with victories against The Dalles, Sisters and Madras, in which Redmond never lost more than two matches.

Being that it’s her first year coaching in Class 5A, and that the Redmond schools play in a district with teams from the Eugene area and Southern Oregon, Tusow is still learning about her district opponents.

“I kind of take the mindset that, no matter who our opponent is, we’re going to play the best we can play,” she said.

The team has been led so far by No. 1 singles player Ingrid Harris. The sophomore is the sister of the now-graduated Greta Harris, the only state qualifier from Redmond’s 2017 team, which finished second at the district tournament.

The No. 1 doubles team has senior Ashley Green, who was recently paired with junior Taylor Cordell after Green’s playing partner suffered an injury.

“I’m pretty excited about their prospects for the season,” Tusow said.

Green is enjoying playing with Cordell. She said it hasn’t been too much of a learning curve since they have been teammates for years.

Though Redmond lost key players from 2017, Green hopes they can breakthrough at the district tournament.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a few players go on to state,” she said.

Tusow wants to show the other district schools that Central Oregon teams are strong.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing how we compete against the teams from Eugene and the valley,” she said.

The team is responding well to its new coach, Green said.

“It’s a new coach, but everyone is taking it really well,” she said. “It’s been fun.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,