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Islander girls run away with district title | Prep tennis

Islander Chelsea Bailey prepares to hit during Sea-King district tournament play at Lower Woodlawn Tennis Courts in Seattle on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. She finished second overall. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander Chelsea Bailey prepares to hit during Sea-King district tournament play at Lower Woodlawn Tennis Courts in Seattle on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. She finished second overall.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

With a 13 point gap separating the Mercer Island girls from second place Bainbridge, the Islanders ran away with Wednesday's SeaKing district title at Lower Woodland Park. The Islanders 31 points was enough to take the district crown and propel the team toward another strong showing at state.

"Districts went extremely well," said head coach Mindy Blakeslee. "We ended up winning the team title by a margin of 13 points. We were able to do this because everyone that was competing contributed in a big way. We improved over last year, in that we won the doubles championship and we got third and fourth in the singles draw, advancing two singles players to state, where last year we only had one."

At districts Chelsea Bailey fell in the semifinals match to Sasha Carter, of Bainbridge, while Karissa Walker was beaten by Holy Names' Natalie Allen. Both will compete in the state tournament.

The Islanders double combo of Kelly Crandall and Nora Tan earned the district title, beating Grace Porter and Kate Jameson from Bainbridge 6-4, 6-4. The duo beat Barbara Ann Carey and Sarah Newman of Seattle Prep in the semis. The team's second doubles team took fifth overall, allowing them to earn the last berth to state.

"Our second doubles team of Sophia Gage and Erica Baska, got fifth place, but they only lost one match, 6-4 in the third set, to the No. 1 seeds in the draw, so they actually did amazing, but were just the lucky recipients of a tough draw. Even so, they are advancing to state, where I feel they have a strong chance to compete for a state title, along with our other doubles team," said the coach.

Blakeslee said a huge factor that came out of districts for the Islanders is that they are taking six to state, rather than the four they had last year. But the team knows they still have hard work ahead of them.

"We can't afford to relax after districts," said the coach. "The 3A tournament is packed with talent, and we have no idea how our draws will be, so we have to keep practicing and be prepared for anything. These girls are all extremely hard workers and they are focused on winning another state title. I have the utmost confidence in them."

While the team prepares, Blakeslee said they are trying not to focus on the fact that they won the state title last year.

"We try not to focus on the pressure to repeat," said Blakeslee. "We have three returning players, but three girls who have never even been to KingCo before, competing this year, so it's a new experience. We are going to just take one match at a time and cheer and root for each other and hope for the best."

The team has already seen some of their toughest competition this season, facing Bainbridge at districts and helping themselves by knocking a few of the Spartans out of the tournament.

"Our biggest competition is Bainbridge for sure," said the coach. "We did some damage control at districts by knocking out one of their singles players –Karissa Walker beat Bainbridge's Jordan Ferguson in the quarters and she did not advance to state. They will still be tough competition for us though, as their singles player, Sasha Carter is the defending state champion, and their doubles team of Grace Porter/Kate Jameson is a contender for the doubles title."

Blakeslee said the right combination of events, playing in Bainbridge's favor at state, means the state tournament is anything but set in stone.

Bailey will face Lauren McCann from Capital in the first round, while Walker will take on Auburn Mountainview’s Maggie Henderson. Tan and Crandall will face a team from Shorewood, while Gage and Baska will face a team from Columbia River in the doubles competition.

The state tournament bracket is available online.

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