MIHS hires grad to coach girls tennis

Mercer Island High School has hired a new girls tennis coach to take over the program this spring. Mindy Blakeslee, a Mercer Island grad, will step into the head coaching position after former head coach Joyce Hedlund passed away last fall.

Blakeslee, a three-time state doubles champion during her high school career, also played for four years at the University of Washington in both singles and doubles. Blakeslee was a volunteer coach during the girls 2007 season and currently helps train with members of the high school team.

“It’s exciting,” said Blakeslee. “I played in the ‘80s and I love Mercer Island High School, and I’m just really excited.” She said accepting the position is also bittersweet, as Hedlund was someone who Blakeslee had known for a long time.

“Joyce was a friend and I have big shoes to fill, no doubt about that,” she said.

Blakeslee said a big part of her decision to apply for the job was because she knows many of the team’s current members and saw how affected they were by Hedlund’s sudden death. As a hitting partner for current girls team member Chelsea Bailey, Blakeslee said that Bailey encouraged her to apply, and the more she thought about it, the more it made sense.

“I thought about it and I know a lot of the girls already; I think I can help them through this difficult season,” said the new coach.

The Islander girls team is the current reigning 3A state champion, a title that Blakeslee said should be in their reach again.

“No pressure, they won state last year,” Blakeslee joked. “I think I’m going to let the girls set the goals. They are a talented group, but I think winning state is definitely a goal we could achieve.”

Blakeslee, an Island resident, is also very involved with Island youth sports, including Mercer Island Little League baseball, the Boys & Girls Club, youth basketball and soccer, and still plays tennis with local U.S. Tennis Association teams.

“Obviously, anything I do now is going to be second to the team,” Blakeslee said of her own tennis career. She was a part of the local USTA team, which finished fourth at the national competition in 2007. She said most of her other activities in sports on the Island are because her daughters are members of teams, such as the Mercer Island girls youth basketball program.

“That’s another reason I wanted to get involved,” she said. “I see how these girls need someone outside of their families that they can identify with.”

Blakeslee said that, while the current team obviously has the experience and the know-how for tennis, she hopes to offer up her expertise in other areas, like strategy.

“It’s something I really enjoy,” said Blakeslee.

According to Craig Olson, MIHS athletic director, the school will be interviewing boy coaching candidates this week. The spring tennis season starts on March 1.

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