Sports

Smiling senior

Even though junior Iliana Petrova holds down the top singles spot on the Bremerton Knights’ girls tennis team with her pounding baseline strokes, No. 2-player Lelani Howard leads the show.

The bubbly senior has been voted as the captain for the last two years by her teammates because she keeps things so light on the court.

She’s a joker.

A friend.

She’s also the “pineapple queen,” according to teammate Vereniz Encarnation.

Howard has numerous wierd quirks that her teammates love talking about.

From the sandwiches she used to eat that included two pieces of bread around a layer of rice, to her obsession with canned pineapple, Howard admits she is just a little bit odd.

“I like to travel because I like to roll my luggage,” she said.

This year, Howard is 3-2 in singles play and 2-2 in doubles play.

“I used to play basketball, but I like tennis a lot more because it’s just me up there and I know what I am doing wrong,” she said. “I can cheer myself on. I just love hitting the ball in the middle of the racket. It feels so good.”

Howard is just itching to graduate from Bremerton High so she can travel elsewhere. She is taking running start classes at Olympic College in travel and tourism.

She will attend the University of Houston in the fall.

“She’s always in a good mood,” Bremerton teammate Emily Hartman said. “She can’t really get mad at somebody.”

Coach Ursula Huhta said Howard is coachable.

“Whatever I tell her to work on, she’s more than willing to work on it,” she said.

Huhta said the only thing that disappoints her about Howard is the amount of potential she has.

Somedays it looks like she has been playing tennis since she was a 5-year-old and other days she doesn’t appear like she is putting effort into it, Huhta said.

That doesn’t mean the coach doesn’t like her, though.

“She always comes forth with such a positive attitude,” Huhta said.

Even though she has played since her mother introduced her to the game as an 8-year-old, Howard said she only began to take the game seriously as a freshman when she played on the junior varsity squad. As a sophomore, she played No. 2 doubles and switched between No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles as a junior and senior.

Howard is known by her teammates as the team joker on the bus.

When she isn’t playing tennis or working out in the gym, she and her friend, Encarnation, usually travel over to Safeway every day after practice to sit in the car, munch on food and listen to music.

Not a bad life for a carefree girl like Howard.

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