Allison Shell has experienced the taste of postseason tennis competition before.
Today, the Carson High School senior will have an opportunity to share the experience with her teammates when the Senators face McQueen in the opening round of the expanded Northern 4A girls tennis playoffs in Reno.
Carson (4-5), the No. 4 regular season seed from Division II, will face Division I champion McQueen in a match scheduled to start at 3:45 p.m. at the Plumas Tennis Center.
This marks the start of a new eight-team playoff format involving the top four teams from each division. In the past, only two teams from each division advanced.
In fact, Shell and her teammates only found out about their playoff berth on Thursday morning.
"We thought our season was over, but coach (Linda Hixenbaugh) called us this morning and told us," said Shell, one of the Senators' co-captains. "Oh, yeah, I was happy. It's great, I'm a senior and we finally made it.
"We were fourth last year but we didn't make it because they only took two teams," the senior added.
Shell qualified for zone last year as an alternate and she will play doubles with Jaime White later next week when the zone individual competition begins on the Plumas courts.
Carson freshman Polly Johnson plays No. 1 singles for the Senators and is one of the top players in the North based on her 27-2 record. Johnson tuned up for zone last weekend with a solid performance at the Reno Super Open, where she reached the semifinals of the 16-year-old age bracket.
Johnson's two losses during the Northern 4A season have come at the hands of Reno's Stacy May and Amber Oglesby, both state tournament participants in 1998. May was a member of Reno's state runner-up doubles team and Oglesby qualified in singles.
"It's going to be close," Johnson said of the zone singles competition. "I've had a lot of close matches. My match with Stacy May went to deuce."
From a team standpoint, the Senators know they will have their work cut out for them today against McQueen. The two teams didn't meet during the regular season.
"They're No. 1 from their side," Shell said. "Are we excited? Oh yeah, we don't care who it is, as long as we get to play."
GALENA AT DOUGLAS
The Douglas Tigers (5-4), who advance into the zone playoffs as the No. 2 seed from Division II, host Galena in a match in Gardnerville.
The girls play at 11:30 a.m., followed by a match between the Douglas and McQueen boys at 2:30 on the Lampe Park courts.
The Tigers clinched second-place and the home court advantage on Monday with a narrow 12-1/2-10 victory against South Tahoe on the Lampe Park courts.
Oglesby and Kristen Garzapena swept their three singles matches - dropping only three games between them - and Samantha Barnes won twice to help Douglas earn that victory. On the doubles side, the Tigers' doubles teams of Angie Bommarito-Andrea Garcia and Cassandra Cushing-Amber Breuer helped out with victories over South Tahoe's No. 1 team.
"We've been strong in singles all year, but now our doubles teams are coming around, which has helped us win some big matches and made us a stronger team for zone," Douglas coach Dee Gosselin said.