Sports

MI girls return to top

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Islander Erica Leong won her No. 3 singles match along with a doubles match during the team’s win at Bellevue that all but clinched the 3A KingCo title.  -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Islander Erica Leong won her No. 3 singles match along with a doubles match during the team’s win at Bellevue that all but clinched the 3A KingCo title.
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Win 37th 3A KingCo title

Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

Two seasons without a league championship is not normally a big deal for most high school sports programs. But when a team has 36 titles in 41 years, it is a huge deal.

“It always sets high standards for us,” said Islander Michelle Zemplenyi. “We know that other schools take aim at us, and this year we were ready.”

The Mercer Island girls tennis team ended their drought and won the 2008 regular season championship with a victory over rival Bellevue, 5-4, on April 22.

“The girls really got after it,” said Mercer Island coach Joyce Hedlund. “Most of the girls want to win it for the school, so it was pretty special.”

The Islanders also defeated Sammamish 9-0 on Thursday at Mercer Island High School.

“It was very decisive against Sammamish because of how tough Bellevue was,” said Hedlund.

Mercer Island dominated the league this year with strong talent at the top. But against Bellevue, the team’s depth picked up their powerful No. 1 and 2 singles players, who lost in singles action.

“We have had some time to figure out who to put where and we got healthy, which helped a lot,” said Hedlund.

Islander Erica Leong was the highest singles seed (No. 3) to win for the Islanders. Leong dismantled her opponent with a 6-1, 6-1 win. No. 4 seed Mercer Island sophomore Julia Schubach also dominated, winning 6-0, 6-0.

But Islanders Chelsea Bailey and Zemplenyi, the team’s No. 1 and 2 singles players, bounced back to win the No. 1 doubles match 6-3, 7-6(7-0).

“They just played tennis,” said Hedlund. “They had no nerves, and they were making their shots. I knew it would be a minor miracle for the Bellevue girls to win after that first set.”

The win sparked a major comeback for Mercer Island, which swept all three doubles matches.

The No. 2 doubles team of Schubach and Leong continued to dominate with a 6-1, 6-2 victory, while Julia Zook and Paige Waldron took the No. 3 seed doubles match with a 6-0, 6-1 win.

Bailey’s loss at No. 1 singles was not a surprise to anyone. Her opponent, Nikole Nokivoka, won state as a freshman and is one of the best in the state. Despite the loss, Bailey finishes the regular season as the second best player in 3A KingCo with only one loss in her freshman year.

“Chelsea has done a good job of beating the girls who we lost to last year,” said Zemplenyi.

The doubles loss for Nokivoka was the first of her career.

The two years without a title tied the longest stretch as the team went without a championship from 1981 to 1982. Since 1967, the only other year when the Islanders did not win the league title was in 2003.

The Islanders completed the regular-season schedule on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) at Interlake High School. With a victory, the Mercer Island tennis team finished the season with an undefeated record through the eight-meet regular-season schedule. The 3A KingCo tournament will be on Saturday at Skyline High School.

“Chelsea has done a good job of beating the girls we lost to last year,” said Zemplenyi.

The doubles loss for Nokivoka was the first of her career.

The two years without a title tied the longest stretch as the team went without a championship from 1981 to 1982. Since 1967, the only other year the Islanders did not win the league title was in 2003.

The Islanders completed the regular-season schedule Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) at Interlake High School. With a victory the Mercer Island tennis team finished the season with a undefeated record through the eight meet regular-season schedule. The 3A KingCo tournament Saturday at Skyline High School.

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