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MI sweeps district doubles
Mercer Island tennis coach Joyce Hedlund was nervous going into the district meet. The Islanders had just one doubles team for boys and girls on the Lower Woodland Park courts in Seattle. The girls team had only been playing together for less than a month and a half, with one freshman player. The boys team had just a week and a half to practice together prior to facing some of the best teams in the state.
Despite the adversity, both teams swept through their brackets to win their respective doubles district tennis titles on Thursday.
The Mercer Island girls tennis team of Chelsea Bailey and Michelle Zemplenyi have played more matches together in the past week than they have all season. That inexperience didnt stop the two friends from winning the Sea-King District tournament.
The two Island girls earned a first-round bye with their KingCo tournament title the previous week. But the quarter final match at districts proved to be a turning point. Zemplenyi and Bailey lost their first set, 3-6, and looked to be falling into a funk. But light-hearted prods from their coach seemed to refocus and loosen up the duo.
They were both so nervous coming into this match, said Hedlund. If they win the second set, they will be fine.
Hedlunds words have seldom been so true. The Islanders got focused and won the next two sets 6-1, 6-3. The victory seemed to boost their confidence as they defeated Caroline Daly and Hannah Mangham of Lakeside, 7-6(4), 6-2 during the semifinals.
The victory set up a championship against another Lakeside team Catherine Phelps and Catherine Fitch. The match was a test in consistency and the Islanders came out ahead 6-4, 6-4.
The boys team of Max Franklin and Matt Ellis had very little time to prepare for the tournament. A week and a half of playing adult men at the Country Club and cramming as much time onto the courts between studying, baseball practice and sleep, was all the team had in order to prepare. But despite some double faults during their first match the boys team blew through their quarter final opponents from Interlake.
We didnt have much time to get focused on this, said Franklin. We know all of our opponents from the USTA but havent played many of them.
The match against the Saints took very little time to complete as Franklin and Ellis used the 6-1, 6-2 win as a tune up for day two of the tournament.
We were a bit nervous coming in, said Ellis. Our returns werent as good as we would like.
All the KingCo boys teams come into the tournament at a distinct disadvantage as they play their regular season and league tournament during the fall. Metro teams play during the spring.
We have to deal with it every year, said Hedlund. But these boys had even less time to get ready. That first win was big.
Mercer Islands semifinal opponent was from Seattle Prep and gave the Islanders all they could handle despite the straight sets victory. Taylor Hunt and Garrett Vincent pushed the first set to the limit, forcing a tiebreaker. But Ellis and Franklin stayed focused to earn the win in five points 7-5(5). The second set was just as challenging for the Islanders despite the 6-4 victory.
During the championship Mercer Island faced a familiar foe in Sammamishs team of Mark Shkrebtan and Michael Schaeffer. Again Mercer Island was tested but came away with the title winning score of 6-4, 7-5.
These two boys understand the tradition of Mercer Island tennis and they played well, said Hedlund.
The State tournament will be held Friday and Saturday in Kennewick Washington.