It's hard to imagine Alyssa Evensen's senior season on the Skyline tennis team getting any better than this.
After a state title last year in her third consecutive final at No. 2 singles, Evensen was elevated to the top line for the Eagles this season. She's the odds-on favorite to capture state, as are the rest of her teammates, who dropped down to Class 4A after claiming the past two 5A crowns.
But most important, what will really make this season one to remember, is the return of her twin sister, Nicole, who was sidelined the past two years because of blood clots near her brain.
"It feels good to have her with me again," Alyssa said of her sister, who was the Class 5A state champion at No. 3 singles as a freshman in 2008. "It kind of feels like old times."
The sisters first picked up racquets at age 2, and have been playing competitively for the past eight years. They comprised the top-ranked 16-under doubles team before Nicole fell ill shortly before their sophomore year.
Doctors found two blood clots in a two-month span and diagnosed Nicole with Cerebral Sinovenous Thrombosis (CSVT), a rare form of stroke. She underwent a spinal tap to relieve pressure on her brain.
"It was like having two strokes," Leeza Evensen, the girls' mother, said. "It's amazing that she has come back. A year ago, she was just lying in bed, she couldn't get up. That's how bad it was."
Medications have helped Nicole manage the illness and she returned to the court this summer, teaming with Alyssa in doubles competition.
Nicole said she is "maybe 60 percent" of the way back and hopes to play doubles for the Eagles this season.
"It feels good to be back out here," Nicole said. "It's irritating when you can't do it and you're just watching. â¦ My stamina has gone way down."
Her return has been a boost for Alyssa, who admitted it was difficult to leave her sister behind or see her watching from the sidelines as she continues to succeed on the court.
"I think it makes her happy to be involved again," Alyssa said. "I think the worst thing for her was when I had to go off to a tournament, she had to stay home. Or when she did come with us, she couldn't play and didn't have much fun."
Skyline coach Shonnie Hays said Nicole's return has been inspirational for the entire team.
"It's great to have her back and feeling pretty well," Hays said. "It's just a matter of physically, how she feels."
Nicole's return makes for an even deeper lineup for the talent-rich Eagles, who slide Alyssa up to No. 1 singles and return most of last year's lineup.
Alyssa said her approach won't change much from the one she has had each of the past three years. She remains stoic and understated when talking about her on-court success.
"She lets her racket do the talking," Hays said. "She's not a kid that brags, but she plays in most of the sectional tournaments in the region and does really, really well. She's just a great player and a great asset for the team.
"We've been blessed to have a lot of ranked Intermountain players. She's just a great competitor."
Alyssa Evensen moves to No. 1 singles for Skyline after winning the No. 2 singles title in Class 5A in her third consecutive final appearance.
Twin sister Nicole returns to play doubles after missing two seasons with blood clots on her brain.
The sisters comprised the No. 1 doubles team in the state's 16-under division before Nicole fell ill.