Game, set — titles: Islander tennis teams win big at state

All the tennis pieces fell perfectly into place for the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) boys and girls netters at the 3A state championships.

The Islanders owned the top of the doubles ladder and the team standings on May 26-27 at the Vancouver Tennis Center. Both teams eclipsed second-place Lakeside for dual crowns and also snagged a pair of first-place doubles victories. Winners were Noah Perlman/Brandon Chew and Jaya Manhas/Lindsey Whelan, second-placers were Ajay Manhas/Nathan Wen and Rachel Garton/Chloe DeGracia and third-placers were Connor Leung/Sam Dilworth. Gian Manhas took seventh in boys singles.

The final team standings were tight, and MIHS prevailed 35-32 on the boys’ side and 21-18 on the girls’ side.

On notching the team title, Perlman said: “We were really excited because there’s a lot of seniors and this is our last chance. It was not easy. It was not a cakewalk. There was a lot of things that had to happen.”

“We’re thrilled,” Whelan said about winning the team crown. She added about the championship match against their teammates, which included some long rallies and smart play, “It was a really good final. I’d say that the level of tennis was really high. A ton of people came up to us at the end and (were) like, ‘Oh, wow, that was a super fun match to watch.’”

Senior duo Jaya Manhas and Whelan defeated Garton and DeGracia, 6-2, 6-4, and senior pair Perlman and Chew beat their teammates Ajay Manhas, a senior, and Wen, 6-3, 6-4.

Chew said it was a dream come true to win a state title while putting all his heart and talent into his final high school contest. He and Perlman played with maximum focus to earn the doubles crown against their top-notch teammates. There was some light banter between the two teams at the beginning, but then it was all business for the Islander foursome.

“We worked so hard for this first place and so I think all of us boys, same with the staff and everyone that (was) supporting us, definitely felt that sense of accomplishment,” Chew said.

To reach the final, Chew and Perlman downed the No. 1-seeded Seattle Prep squad, 6-1, 6-2, in the semifinals. The clutch payback victory came against the pair that beat the Islander duo in the semis last year.

“That was just cool to have a full Mercer Island final,” said Perlman, noting that he and Chew displayed an aggressive game in the final, quickly getting to the net against the stellar volleyers on the opposite side.

Islanders Leung and Dilworth also defeated the Seattle Prep duo, 7-6(7-3), 6-4 to take third.

Whelan and Jaya Manhas triumphed at state behind solid serving and poaching, aggressive play and minimizing unforced errors. Garton and DeGracia paved their way to the final with a critical three-set victory over Seattle Prep in the semis. Scores were 6-7(7-3), 6-3, 6-3.

Playing with a slightly sprained left ankle that she sustained at the KingCo tournament, Whelan wore a brace and toughed it out en route to the victory stand.

Jaya Manhas — the only four-year varsity player on the girls’ squad — described what the special experience was like winning her first state title alongside longtime doubles partner Whelan: “Growing up together, we have learned each others’ strengths and weaknesses, which has enabled us to be a strong duo on the court. I am super grateful to my coaches and teammates for making my dream as a senior come true.”

She also checked off another box on her list of goals by helping the Islanders win a state team crown before she graduated.