Tennis beats Newport, loses to Skyline:Mercer Island girls still in season title hunt, need Newport win against Spartans

The focus of the Mercer Island girls tennis team last week was the battle against the defending 3A KingCo champion, Newport Knights. The Knights knocked off Mercer Island last year to take the regular season title from the Islanders for the first time in over a decade. The Islanders beat the Knights at Newport 6-3. But the combination of very little pre-season practice and a two-day event against Newport left the Islanders drained. Skyline took advantage with a 7-2 victory at Mercer Island Thursday, putting the 3A KingCo title in jeopardy.

“We behaved ourselves like the classy team we are, held our heads up high and thought, ‘next time,’” said Mercer Island coach Joyce Hedlund. “We just did not have much left after Wednesday.”

The Islander loss to Skyline does not end their quest for the season title as much of the season still has to be played, including a meet between the Spartans and the Knights.

“We have to root for Newport,” said Hedlund.

Anyone who knows the rivalry between the Knights and Mercer Island understands. The meet on April 3 and 4 was nothing short of the normal intensity between the two programs.

“This meet is one of the biggest of the year,” said Islander Amelia Carpenter, following her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Newport’s Michele Miyouchi at No. 1 singles. “I hadn’t played in while so I just wanted to stay consistent.”

That tone was echoed throughout both teams. Hedlund and the coach for Newport worked feverishly to move the meet to the end of the season in order to build up to the big rivalry event and give the teams time to prepare. Rain-outs became a big concern, as neither team played much during the first five weeks of the season.

“We didn’t get on changing (the date of the meet) fast enough,” said Hedlund. “We have had 14 days to either practice or play matches. That is it. We both wanted more time to prepare.”

Despite the lack of preparation, the Islanders’ dominated the doubles matches. Carpenter and Michelle Zemplenyi won the No. 1 doubles match 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

“Sometimes it just takes a while to get into the match and focus,” said Zemplenyi, who also won her singles match 0-6, 6-2, 6-1. “Usually Newport is what we work up to but we just want to show that we are better than last year.”

The No. 2 match went to the Islanders’ Laren Smith and Olivia Kristof 7-6(7-4), 3-6, 6-3. Frannie Rudolf and Caitlin Wallace completed the sweep with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

But according to Hedlund, Julia Zook’s win at No. 6 singles, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, set the tone for the Islander meet victory.

“I was determined to win towards the end,” said Zook. “Our team is not just the best players. Our team has really good depth.”

Her teammates cheered after she won the match point.

“Sometimes you just have to dig and dig and dig,” said Hedlund.

But those cheers turned to stunned looks against Skyline at Mercer Island High School. The Spartans, who played the past two seasons in 4A KingCo, returned to the league with as much depth the Islanders and Knights, an element that pushed them over the top Thursday. Mercer Island only edged out victories in two matches, Carpenter at No. 1 singles (6-3, 6-2) and No. 4 doubles as Tammy Gu and Kendra Maeser won 8-4.

Mercer Island will regroup this week as they take Spring break. The team will get back to playing on April 18 against Mount Si at Mercer Island High school.

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