Three seeds to state for boys tennis

By Matt Phelps

For the past six months, every 3A KingCo boys tennis player who qualified for districts had to find somewhere to play in order to stay sharp. Other leagues, such as 3A Metro, play its regular season during spring, whereas KingCo plays during the fall. Both leagues meet at the end of May to decide who goes to state and who goes home.

It is a challenge every year for the Islanders as they have at least two or three players who advance to districts. This year the team has a chance to win the state championship with two singles and two doubles teams, the maximum, competing for Mercer Island at districts. All but one doubles team moved on to play in the state tournament as Mercer Island came just one point shy of winning the district meet as a team on May 22 and 23.

``Districts are for placement,'' said Mercer Island tennis head coach Joyce Hedlund. ``We just needed to get them into the state tournament.''

In singles, both Jeff Hammond and Chris Trippel defeated their first opponents but lost during the semifinals. The losses set up an all Mercer Island match for the third and fourth seeds to state. Neither Islander had to worry about going home, as the top five seeds moved on to state.

Hammond won the match 6-4, 6-3 to take the higher seed despite leg injuries that had slowed him during districts.

``I have to just try and not think about it,'' said Hammond of the pain. The junior said he injured his legs during a tournament just before districts.

Hammond, who has been the Islanders No. 1 player for two consecutive years, was hindered last year by a stress fracture in his leg during the state and district meets. Ultimately, the injury forced Hammond to take a default loss at state. This year Hammond wants another shot.

``I want to get my revenge at state,'' said Hammond. ``I want to just represent MI better.''

One player that all the boys singles participants will have to deal with at state is Peter Kung of Lakeside. Trippel played Kung tough in his 6-3, 6-3 loss during the semifinals, but no player has figured out Kung. The Lakeside senior has won the past three state titles and will be going for a sweep over his career.

In doubles, Chris Bailey and Chris Winterbauer took the third seed to state with a victory over a Seattle Prep team 7-5, 6-3.

``If we can take over the net we can definitely win any match,'' said Winterbauer. ``We have had trouble doing that though.''

The team's only loss came to the eventual district champions and a fellow Islander. Lakeside's Amir Ghazvinian, who also lives on Mercer Island, teamed with Justin Hayashi for the district doubles title.

``Lakeside is very tough,'' said Hedlund. ``They usually only have two but this time they will have three.''

Trevor Fulp and Jordan Culpepper didn't fair as well for Mercer Island. The tandem's only victory came during the first round as they beat a team from Bainbridge Island 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Islander team was eventually knocked out and took sixth at districts with a loss to a team from Newport.

The state meet will be played this week at the Nordstrom Tennis Center at the University of Washington.

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