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State champions: Islanders take doubles and team titles
When talking about Mercer Island boys tennis during the past three seasons, a trio of athletes have been at the heart and soul of the program through wins, losses and defections.
Chris Bailey, Chris Winterbauer and Trevor Fulp have become the best of friends with one goal in mind — furthering the tradition of the school and program that they love. The threesome accomplished that goal this weekend by winning Mercer Island’s 17th boys tennis team state title in the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington.
“It was an amazing trip,” said Mercer Island coach Joyce Hedlund. “They were the ones counting the points and figuring out how to win the team title. I haven’t seen that intensity in a while.”
That intensity led Fulp and Winterbauer to the state doubles championship and Bailey to second in state, both two places better than last year’s finish when Mercer Island tied Seattle Prep for the team title.
“This was the best way to end our senior years,” said Bailey. “Last year we tied and it didn’t feel quite right. This year we won it.”
Winterbauer and Fulp came into the state tournament as the No. 2 doubles team from the Sea-King district tournament behind Seattle Prep rivals Brian Jenkins and Charles Quay. But the Islander team got the victory when it counted.
“They had an extra impetus to beat Prep and they knew they have the ability to be champions,” said Hedlund.
The finals were grueling despite the two set Islander victory 6-4, 7-6(3). The match was plagued by encounters with light fixtures, game stoppages and loud crowd noise.
“There was definitely some gamesmanship but it didn’t shake the boys up,” said Hedlund. “They were calm and cool.”
Winterbauer and Fulp won the final point after a Prep player hit a volley on the Islanders’ side of the net. The realization of four years of hard work hit the two athletes who have been friends since second grade.
“Trevor and I went out on a bang,” said Winterbauer. “Prep was demolishing kids. I think they only dropped 11 games coming into the match but we played our best tennis ever.”
Fulp and Winterbauer’s run to the state title went through a team that they have played all season from Newport.
“They seemed to play better and better as the tournament went on,” said Hedlund.
The Islanders beat the Knights during the semifinals 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
“We came out flat against Newport and it was scary to lose that first set,” said Fulp. “We knew it wasn’t over and that was really exciting to come back.”
The first and second round posed the challenge of the unknown. The Islanders narrowly escaped the second round with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over a team from North Thurston High School. Winterbauer and Fulp easily defeated an Enumclaw High School team during the first round 6-1, 6-0.
The two friends will play tennis next year in the San Francisco area. Fulp will attend the University of California Berkeley, while Winterbauer will attend Stanford.
Bailey takes second
Bailey also faced the same opponent during the finals as he did at districts — David Mangham of Lakeside. And despite the 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 loss, Bailey was satisfied with improving two places from last year’s state title run.
“I felt really good,” said Bailey.
“Most players watch that match but I got to play in the state finals.”
The senior has been to the state tournament three years in a row and had the distinction of securing the team title.
“I was in the middle of the third set of my semifinal match when I heard that (Fulp and Winterbauer) advanced to the finals,” said Bailey, who will play for Whitman college next year. “ I knew if I won we were guaranteed the title.”
Bailey defeated Bryan Thorp of Kennedy, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5, to clinch the title.
“He had a wonderful tournament and he was very focused,” said Hedlund.
Bailey’s run to the finals began with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Fort Vancouver’s Derek Cooley. The Islander then made quick work of Alex VanDerschelden of Auburn Riverside, 6-3, 6-2.
Hedlund said that the work ethic of the trio is what sets them apart from other players.
“It’s hard to say good bye to them,” said Hedlund. “They have worked so hard to get to this point.”
In order to prepare for the state tournament Hedlund set up matches for the boys to play the Mercer Island Country Club against grown men.
“It’s really the only way you can prepare and they took full advantage of it,” said Hedlund.