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Dissed? Dissmissed!^ahGirls tennis beats disrespectful Newport for 11th straight KingCo title
By Matt Phelps
The Newport girls tennis team rolled onto Mercer Island Tuesday with an undefeated record and an apparent lack of respect for one of the most successful high school sports programs in state history. They left with a 6-3 loss and a good understanding of why the Mercer Island girls tennis team hasn't lost a 3A KingCo regular season title in over a decade.
``They were just trying to intimidate us,'' said Mercer Island girls tennis head coach Joyce Hedlund. ``But they knew they had to beat us. We knew that we were going to have to fight hard and it could have gone either way.''
Despite the unwritten rules of high school tennis etiquette, Newport took the liberty of hanging a banner and balloons and warming up on the Islanders' center court without asking. They also took extra time to warm up.
``I just thought it was flat out rude,'' said Islander senior Taylor Gwinn. ``They were just trying to intimidate us and we just didn't let it get to our heads.''
The apparent lack of respect fueled Mercer Island's pride as the team swept the doubles action.
Senior pride was a big factor in the Mercer Island victory, as five of the six wins came from senior players during their final regular season matches.
``Our seniors carried the match,'' said Hedlund. ``They were the absolute key for us.''
Islander Liz Oldenburg let her racket do the talking as she beat Angela Pham 6-2, 6-4 in the No. 1 singles match. Oldenburg, who has played just a handful of singles matches this season and is usually a doubles player, made quick work of her opponent as she knew that her match could be a deciding factor in the meet.
``I had been practicing singles the past few days,'' said Oldenburg. ``It was a tough match; she is a really good player. I was tired for the doubles match. It is great to have this competitive of a match right before the KingCo tournament.''
Oldenburg teamed with Audrey Morton for No. 1 doubles in another critical match.
After dominating the first set 6-1, the Islanders quickly realized why Newport was undefeated. The 7-5 loss during the second set could have rattled the Islander tandem, but the two seniors came roaring back to win the third and final set 6-4 for the victory.
No. 2 and 3 singles came as a learning experience for two Islanders that will lead the team next season. Islander sophomore Amelia Carpenter pushed her first set against Tiffany Vo to the limit but lost 7-6. Vo won the second set 6-3 for the victory.
Islander sophomore Sheehan Trippel lost her first set to Casey Roth of Newport 6-3. But forced a tie breaking second set and tying the match with a 7-6(2) win. The final set was just as close but Trippel came up just short in the 7-6(5) loss.
Islander Audrey Morton suffered the third and final Mercer Island loss of the day 6-4, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.
At No. 5 singles Gwinn won a close match 7-5, 4-7(3), 6-4, and No. 6 singles player Ashley Nield disposed of her opponent easily with a 6-1, 6-3 victory to tie the singles scoring at 3-3.
``We know the legacy that we are playing for and it is a bit more pressure than normal,'' said Gwinn. Gwinn said that the pressure of the Islanders' legacy also helped her and her teammates through the exhaustion of playing singles and doubles matches.
With the No. 1 doubles victory the Islanders needed just one more win to take the KingCo title and Gwinn and Nield delivered with an extremely competitive 4-6, 6-4, (10-3) match that extended until the sun had almost set.
But the only sun that would set would be on Newport as Karen Zemplenyi and Ellie Chapman put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season title (7-0) with a 6-3, 6-4 victory at No. 3 doubles.
The Islanders have won the KingCo title every year since 1994 and were recently inducted into the WIAA Hall of Fame as a program. The Islanders will now start a run at their 25th state title with the 3A KingCo tournament. The event is being held at the Mercer Island High School courts and was to begin Monday (after Reporter deadline). The tournament is scheduled to finish today at 3:30 p.m. pending weather conditions over the three days of the event.