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Aces high!

Plesha, Floyd seek State tennis championships

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A pair of Lower Valley tennis aces, Sunnyside's Danny Plesha (L) and Grandview's Kevin Floyd, hope to close out their high school careers this weekend with State tennis titles.

"Serious?"

"Yeah, serious."

"Serious?"

"Yeah, serious."

Grandview and Sunnyside senior tennis aces Kevin Floyd and Danny Plesha weren't questioning their chances at State this weekend, but choreographing their facial expressions during a recent photo shoot.

When it comes to tennis the two are very serious.

With serves topping 100 mph, Plesha and Floyd have been decimating foes in the 3A and 2A ranks for the past four years.

Both have placed in the top five at their respective State tournaments during their previous three high school seasons.

Floyd has been a State 2A competitor in singles throughout high school, while Plesha teamed with older brother Johnny for a run of three consecutive State 3A doubles trophies.

This year they are aiming for the top singles trophy in their respective classifications.

"I expect him to win it," Grandview Tennis Coach Jaime Morales said of Floyd.

Plesha's coach at Sunnyside, Troy Whittle, is also hopeful.

"The kid's just dedicated to the game, and he's a gifted natural athlete," Whittle said.

It also helps for both aces that tennis was a family matter for them growing up.

Besides his older brother, Johnny, Plesha's parents Charles and Alenka have been a tennis influence on his life. Alenka Plesha also volunteers her time during an informal hitting practice each Wednesday for Sunnyside students interested in honing their game.

Floyd said he grew up around tennis, thanks to his parents Larry and Shirley.

Whether it's good genes or hard work, or both, Plesha and Floyd romp over their league competition to the point that it's surprising if either loses a set during a match.

These aces serve ace after ace.

"He would deny it, but he hates to lose," Morales said of Floyd's key to winning tennis. "It's his heart to play, that's the biggest thing he has going for him."

Then there is Floyd's 125 mph serve and a wicked spin on his second serve that often leaves opponents flat-footed.

"He pushes you," Morales added. "He hits the ball so hard, side to side and deep, there's no time to get around on your swing."

The forehand is at the fore of Plesha's game, said Whittle. "He has an incredible forehand. He hits the ball with such force and spin that when it hits the ground it explodes."

Both coaches noted that their respective aces have helped improve the overall game of their teammates.

"The Pleshas in general have brought us from being an also-ran to a league power," said Whittle. "They've infused life in the program." That life includes more than doubling the season win totals since before the Plesha brothers arrived, and making Sunnyside a perennial power in the Mid-Valley League.

Whittle pointed to the impact the Plesha family has had on Sunnyside tennis players such as Tyler Thompson and Jerika Martinez.

"We tell the kids you can't hide in the shadow of the Pleshas," Whittle said. "They know what it takes to be great-work hard."

Floyd has put Grandview tennis "back on the map," Morales said.

"He has helped bring back a desire to do the best you can," Morales said of the Greyhound tennis team, which this season won as many matches (12) as the previous three seasons combined.

"That has a lot to do with the desire to send Kevin out on a strong note with a supporting team, so people will recognize Grandview as a tennis force," Morales said of his team's success this season. "It's been six years since we were this competitive."

They may play in different leagues and classifications, but Plesha and Floyd are so dominant that their best competition is often each other.

Tennis has helped form a friendship between the two. But while the pair of aces are good friends, it's a different matter on the court.

"Danny and Kevin have fed off each other. They have pushed each other," Whittle observed. He noted that Floyd had the early advantage in the rivalry, but Plesha has caught up and, according to Whittle, surpassed Floyd.

Last year, Plesha was ranked seventh among all Pacific Northwest junior players and Floyd said he was ranked about 12th.

After high school the friends will travel different paths, with Floyd continuing his tennis at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and Plesha joining brother Johnny over at WSU.

"We're friends, but when we're on the court it's all business," Floyd smiled.

A smile.

The pair of aces have a light side after all, not that their opponents would know it-there's no love lost on the court, just a row of goose egg "loves" on the scoreboard.

Yes, Plesha and Floyd are indeed serious.

Make that very serious threats to add to their schools' trophy cases this weekend.

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