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Doubles teams fuel MI to wins
By Matt Phelps
Two matches, two wins.
With the loss of two of the best players in the state, the Mercer Island girls tennis team is supposed to be struggling. Don't tell that to Eastlake and Garfield high schools, both of which got plastered by the Islanders last week. The Islanders used everything in their arsenal for an 8-1 smashing of the Bulldogs on Tuesday, March 22. The Islanders relied on strong doubles play to pull themselves past Eastlake, a traditionally tough girls tennis program, 6-3 Thursday.
The team concept head coach Joyce Hedlund is preaching this season is reaching every player from the top athletes to the girls on junior varsity.
``We have a lot to live up to this year,'' said Islander Ellie Chapman. ``But we plan on continuing the tradition.''
Hedlund is still searching for the right lineups and admits she will take her time to find just the right mix.
``This helps me figure out where kids should play,'' said Hedlund. ``I usually carry 15 or 16 girls on varsity, but this year we have 18. We have a lot of girls and it is tough to chose where to put all of them.''
Amelia Carpenter played her first match at No. 1 singles against Garfield. She looked impressive in a short match with an 8-4 victory. Sheehan Trippel lost 8-5 in No. 2 singles.
Islander Karen Zemplenyi won 8-6 in No. 3 singles, while Sydney Griffen (8-5) and Chapman (8-2) both won singles matches.
``We are just trying to get everyone involved in the wins,'' said Chapman. ``It is going to be a team effort this season.''
Sherrie Hsu earned an 8-5 victory in her first varsity.
``These matches are important because you wont to prove where your position on the team should be,'' said Trippel. ``The wind really plays with the ball and it is a bit frustrating.''
The cold weather and stiff wind made for brutal playing conditions, but the Islanders seemed to have no problem with their opponents during the doubles part of the match.
``I think it affects everyone the same,'' said Islander Ashley Nield. ``It is really hard to warm up and get into a groove, but you have to figure out a way to win.''
The Mercer Island girls doubles teams found more than just a way to win as they were dominant against the Bulldogs. The Islander senior tandem of Audrey Morton and Liz Oldenburg shut out their opponents 8-0. Islanders Taylor Gwinn and Nield earned their first victory of the season with an 8-3 match, while Christina Carpenter and Jane Lee rounded out the doubles wins for the Islanders 8-2.
Hedlund knew the competition would be tough against Eastlake, and inserted Oldenburg in the top singles slot.
Oldenburg never got completely on track, losing a shortened match 8-2. Carpenter slipped down to No. 2 singles and didn't fair much better than Oldenburg, with an 8-5 loss. Trippel earned the team's first win of the day with an 8-5 victory at No. 3 singles. Zemplenyi followed suit with a powerful game and an 8-1 drubbing of her opponent. Gradel lost a close match 8-5, but Rudolf earned an 8-3 victory for the Islanders.
Again, the Islanders' depth and doubles teams came through. Gwinn and Nield teamed for an 8-5 win, while Trippel and Griffin hammered their opponents 8-1.
``It was nice to play someone from another team,'' said Nield. ``I think it is better for competition and the spirit of the team to play someone else. Practicing against each other can get tiresome.''
Jane Lee and Chapman also earned an impressive victory, 8-1, to end the meet.
``It was good practice, but that is mainly all it is,'' said Chapman. ``We just need to get ready for the KingCo matches.''
The Mercer Island girls tennis team took on Bush High School Monday (after Reporter deadline) and will play their first 3A KingCo league match Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at Sammamish High School.