State not kind to Hammond, Islanders

By Matt Phelps

The Mercer Island High School boys tennis team took on the best that the state has to offer Friday and Saturday at the University of Washington's Nordstrom Tennis Center. The results were the same as last year, however: the team's best player had to default and the Islanders finished second to powerhouse Lakeside.

As a team, Mercer Island scored 20 points to Lakeside's 29, but the Lions took both the singles and doubles championships.

One of the Lions' players, Amir Ghazvinian is an Island resident. Ghazvinian teamed with Justin Hayashi to take first in doubles action over a team from Sammamish 6-3, 7-6(7-3).

Islander Jeff Hammond has not had the best of luck at the state meet. A stress fracture forced Hammond to default after just one match last year.

This year's meet looked to be different. Healthy and ready to play, Hammond cruised through the first two rounds, but was forced again to take a default loss thanks to scheduling conflicts. Hammond was scheduled to take the SAT Saturday morning. Scheduling conflicts with a United States Tennis Association tournament precluded Hammond from taking the test on the only other date available, according to Mercer Island High School boys tennis head coach Joyce Hedlund.

``It is just such a big screw-up and miscommunication all around,'' said Hedlund.

The state tennis tournament director would not make an exception for the scheduling conflict and Hammond was forced to take the semifinal loss to Davis Mangham of Lakeside. Subsequently, Mangham was defeated by Lion teammate Peter Kung for the state title. Hammond was forced to take a default loss to teammate Chris Trippel, as well. Hammond finished fifth and Trippel placed third in the tournament.

``The tournament director would not let us push back the matches because it would have messed up some of the other kids' schedules,'' said Hedlund. ``It is just a shame because you want the best players to be playing at this time of year.''

The tournament began on a positive note for the Islanders as Hammond beat Michael Lukomski of Lindbergh, 6-2, 6-1.

Trippel beat Paul Ryan of Columbia River 6-2, 6-4 during the first round. Trippel also beat Donnie Stallman of Highline 6-2, 6-1. Trippel played Kung during the semifinals and lost 6-2, 7-5, despite mounting a comeback during the second set. Trippel was the only player during the tournament to score five points in any set against the now four-time champion.

``I think I was just more consistent this year,'' said Trippel about his first trip to state. ``There weren't really any surprises here. I think we had a good run.''

Trippel said that he plans to play tennis at the University of Redlands next year.

Hammond faced Alex Montgomery of Seattle Prep during the quarter finals and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But Montgomery came back to tie at 4-4 before making an unforced error, causing Montgomery to scream at the top of his lungs. The scream, which is against tournament rules, cost Montgomery the fifth point of the set. The penalty, along with Hammond's consistent play sent Montgomery into a tailspin as Hammond took the match 6-4, 6-1.

The Islanders only entry in doubles play, Chris Bailey and Chris Winterbauer, rolled through the first round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

``The first time to state (last year), I was nervous,'' said Bailey. ``This year there were very few surprises and neither of us were really nervous.''

But the second round was tough. The tandem lost the first set to their Newport competitors 4-6. But Bailey and Winterbauer came back with a 6-3, 6-3 domination to earn a trip to the semifinals. But the pair ran into an old nemesis in the Sammamish team that ousted them from the district semifinals. Bailey and Winterbauer fell behind during the second set and eventually lost 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. The team finished fifth overall.

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