Mercer Island head coach Ryan Pang didn’t realize the team had won every match by a perfect 7-0 score until his players told him.
“We’re doing pretty good,” Pang said. “At some point, we’ll lose a match. It will only be a distraction if I let it.”
With the new season off to a good start, the Islanders (5-0) are focusing on winning the league before they worry about state championships.
“The first goal for me is to win the league team title,” Pang said. “Once that’s figured out, I’ll try to figure out the best pairs for doubles and the best people for singles to send to the KingCo tournament. After the league ends, we have about nine days to figure that out.”
The Islanders have a young team this year, with 10 freshmen on varsity. Pang said a young team comes with some positives and negatives.
“It’s great because they listen well and compete hard every day at practice, which definitely makes things run smoother,” Pang said. “But the fact that they are young means they’re looking around for guidance and that puts a lot of pressure on me, the captains and the upperclassmen to set the tone.”
Through their first five matches, Pang said the upperclassmen have been very supportive of their younger teammates by cheering them on. One of the Mercer Island captains, senior Andrew Kaelin, said it’s important for the freshmen to feel like they’re part of the team because they are the future of the program.
“It’s important because they’ll be on the team for three more years after this season,” Kaelin said. “They’ll show that respect to the underclassmen when they’re older. That is big and it can go a long way.”
The Islanders picked up their fifth victory of the season at home over Interlake (4-2) with another 7-0 win on Sept. 26. The next match for Mercer Island will go a long way to determining the KingCo league title when they travel to face Bellevue (5-0) at 4 p.m. on Oct. 2. Kaelin said the Wolverines have a deep team, including Cameron Yang and Josh Kim, their top two players. Going into a rivalry match with so much on the line, Kaelin expects the Islanders to be cheering and supporting one another.
“The team gets more excited and it’s always louder,” Kaelin said.
Due to rain, the Islanders have had multiple matches rescheduled, creating a packed schedule in the second half. With so many matches in the final three weeks of the season, Pang said the young players have to learn on the fly instead of at practice.
“Because we’ve had a couple matches rained out already, we haven’t played as many matches as other schools, so that makes it tough,” Pang said. “I would like to get a couple practices each week in preparation of the matches, but because of the weather, I’ll maybe get one practice day per week.”
Expectations with the Mercer Island tennis team are always high, something that isn’t lost on the players because they grew up on the Island.