Tennis doubles up on second place

The Mercer Island High School boys and girls tennis programs sent two doubles teams to state last weekend and finished with the same result on both sides — second place.

“I think both teams played hard, and we are all so very proud of how well they did,” said Mercer Island coach Joyce Hedlund. “Three of the four players had never even played at state.”

Both teams earned good experience as none of the players for Mercer Island were seniors.

Girls take second

Bailey and her partner, Michelle Zemplenyi, took on their fellow state competitors with only a month and a half of matches in their back pocket.

“We teamed up at the KingCo tournament, and it was last-minute,” said freshman Chelsea Bailey. “We started to find each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and it began to click for us.”

The clicking started with a KingCo title and powered the tandem through to the state finals, where they lost for the first time.

Mercer Island began the state tournament in Kennewick against an Auburn Riverside opponent, which was overmatched, 6-0, 6-0.

The quarterfinals were more of the same as the pair defeated a team from Union High School 6-2, 6-0, to finish the first day of competition on Friday.

The competition level went up a notch during the semifinals when Bailey and Zemplenyi found themselves down one set, 6-2, against Eastmont’s team of Molly Mayer and Rebecca Chesnut. But the Islanders regrouped and powered back into the match, taking the second set 6-2. The third set would also go to Mercer Island, 6-3, as the team advanced to the state finals.

Bailey and Zemplenyi drew tough opponents from Kamiakin as they played Demi Warner and Alison Welch for the finals.

Once again, Mercer Island fell behind by losing the fist set 6-2. The Islanders again regrouped and pounded the ball for the 6-3 second set victory. But the Kamiakin team proved to be too much as the Islanders could only finish off one point during the final set, losing 6-1.

Bailey had the rare opportunity to watch her older brother, Chris Bailey, play for the Islanders and be a state contender each season that he competed.

“My brother dealt with the pressure well,” said Bailey. “I want to be like that.”

The two girls have developed a strong friendship on and off the court during their run at state and have not ruled out playing doubles next year.

The placing by the girls pushed the Islanders’ points high enough to earn the school a fifth-place finish.

Boys take second

The Islander boys tennis doubles team of Max Franklin and Matt Ellis also came within one win of a state title despite neither player being a senior.

“We are definitely proud of how it went,” said Ellis. “We are happy with second and I think it will keep us hungry.”

The team began the tournament by dismantling a team from Hazen, 6-1, 6-1 and went on to take the quarter finals in a close 7-5, 6-4 match against a tough team from Kennedy to finish out play on Friday.

The next day the Islander tandem took on a familiar foe in Newport’s Steven Miyauchi and Zach Chen. The all KingCo battle went fast as Ellis and Franklin used their prior knowledge of their opponents against them for the straight sets win, 6-0, 6-4.

“Every team there was good and you can’t ever let up,” said Ellis. “We got to see a lot of competition that we might face next year.”

Franklin and Ellis got a slight case of deja vu during the finals as they took on Mark Shrekbtan and Michael Schaeffer of Sammamish. The two teams faced off during the regular season along with a Mercer Island victory, 6-4, 7-5, during the district finals a week earlier.

Mercer Island battled during the first set by lost 6-4. The second set went to tiebreaker.

“We were up on break point during both sets so it was a bit frustrating,” said Ellis.

The Islanders would lose the set 7-6(8).

Despite the loss Ellis said that he and his partner were proud of finishing second overall in the state of Washington at the 3A level.

“It was a good expereince overall and if we play doubles next year we know what to expect,” said Ellis.

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