Jefferson High School launched a girls’ tennis program in 1988. Its dynasty began soon after.
The Panthers took nine straight division titles under coach Dave Hohenthal starting in 1997 – with four consecutive state B-C championships and three state third-place trophies in that stretch.
The 1997 team, coached by Hohenthal and Denise Richardson started the run, with Mitzi Makela, Holly Craft, Amy Lewis, Tiffany Makela, Melanie Brewer, Tara Buckland and Angie Lewis winning the Southeastern Divisional title. The next year, Tiffanie Makela, Amy Lewis, Angie Lewis, Nan Llewellyn, Jodi Makela, Virginia Johnson and Melanie May repeated.
The next two years, Jefferson finished third in the state. In 1999, it was the Lewis twins, Alisa Smith, Virginia Johnson, Melanie May, Jodi Makela, Maggie Keating and Laura Llewellyn. The fourth division title came in 2000 with May, Johnson, Keating and Llewellyn joined by Kayla Kemner, Erica Miller, Emily Elison and Heather Wesolovski.
The 2001 squad was the first to bring home a state title. The team of Virginia Johnson, Kyra Cooper, Erica Miller, Kayla Kemner, Maddie Keating, Heather Wesolovski and Emily Elison brought home the hardware. In 2002, Elison, Wesolovski, Keating and Cooper repeated with Sarah Jessen, Krista Marks, Kylie Pancich, Laura Llewellyn and Stephanie Langford.
The dominance continued in 2003, with sister Jacey Cooper joining Kyra Cooper and Maria Jessen joining her sister Sara Jessen — along with Sam Fenske, Stephanie Langford, Krista Marks and Kylie Pancich. The team lost players to graduation — but the result in 2004 was the same: Lindsay Devine, Rachelle Herverly, Courtney Rehor and Maria Jessen proved that they could take the title with smaller numbers. And the 2005 squad of Maria Jessen, Shawn Knutzen, Jacey Cooper and Alyssa Ziegler brought home the third place State trophy to go along with a ninth straight division trophy.
Hohenthal’s assistants in those golden years were Richardson, Denise Boettcher, Kari Kingsolover and Kay Heaton.