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Girls retain state title
By Matt Phelps
The only worry that head coach Joyce Hedlund had when the Mercer Island High School girls tennis program was inducted into the WIAA Hall of Fame two months ago was if the team would win its 25th state title in the same year.
Hedlund and Islander tennis fans don't have to worry anymore. A group of four seniors, making up two doubles teams, secured the title once again -- but it was close.
The Islanders, with just 15 team points, barely beat out Hanford (14) for the team's 11th consecutive state title and 25th overall in the Nordstrom Center at the University of Washington.
``Mercer Island is a tennis community,'' said Hedlund. ``It really shows the dedication of the top players to the team.''
Both teams' members showed their commitment to Mercer Island tennis with big wins after crushing defeats that ousted them from individual doubles state title contention.
The Islander girls played dominating first rounds as Taylor Gwinn and Ashley Nield disposed of their Highline opponents 6-0, 6-2. Liz Oldenburg and Audrey Morton won 6-1, 6-2 over their opponents from Columbia River.
All of the female doubles teams had to play first- and second-round matches on the outdoor courts.
Morton and Oldenburg finished the first day of the tournament with another win, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, to send them into the semifinals. The team's first match on Saturday was against a familiar foe, Seattle Prep. Over the past two years Oldenburg was forced to face the defending state champions from Prep and both times lost the match. But this was a different Seattle Prep doubles team. This Panther team Oldenburg and Morton had defeated during districts just a week earlier. But like a reoccurring nightmare, Oldenburg and Morton lost again to a Seattle Prep team 6-4, 6-4, as the Islanders never got any momentum going.
Morton and Oldenburg got their focus back during the consolation final and defeated Christen Anneberg and Janelle Davis of Mark Morris, 6-4, 6-2.
Gwinn and Nield didn't fair as well during the second round as they were defeated by a Mark Morris tandem 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Despite the loss, the Islanders didn't lose focus and battled through the consolation semifinal to a 7-6, 6-3 victory.
``They played very strong during the next match,'' said Hedlund. ``They were playing for the team, which is great to see.''
The team of Gwinn and Nield also won one more match against a Sammamish team 6-4, 6-2 to earn a spot and play for fourth place.
``We knew that we would not be here ever again,'' said Nield. ``We just wanted to play our best. We can't be concerned with how other teams, even Liz and Audrey, are doing.''
The team came out ahead with a long and tough victory over Ashley Opdyke and Annie Owen of Shorecrest 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.