Boys fall from 3A KingCo title hunt, two in-league losses leave team 1-3
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
Winning for the Mercer Island High School boys tennis program is about as common as breathing for most other athletes.
The varsity team’s consecutive losses to Bellevue and Sammamish this week were not only hard to believe but hard to stomach.
“I don’t remember the last time we lost three league matches in one season,” said Joyce Hedlund, who has been coaching boys tennis for 18 years at Mercer Island High School. “It hasn’t happened at any time since I have been coaching.”
The two losses come on the heels of a season opening loss to two-time defending 3A KingCo champion Newport.
But one fact becomes very clear in the results of each match: the team is very young.
“It is difficult for this team because we lost three really good senior players from last year, and we don’t have a single senior in the top four,” said Hedlund. “We are still waiting for the leaders to step up.”
The signs of youth and inexperience are most apparent in the way the individual players have lost their tightest matches this season.
“We have lost 13 three-set matches and won zero,” said Hedlund. “I believe we have some strong players, but they have to convert. If we could have won half of those three setters, we would have beat both Sammamish and Bellevue and had a better showing against Newport.”
Bellevue 5, Mercer Island 4
The three-set matches decided the victor at Bellevue High School on Sept. 24. The Wolverines won five three-set matches.
Mercer Island earned three team points as Max Franklin (6-2, 6-1), Sebastian Schmidt (6-1, 6-4) and senior Adam Coe (6-1, 6-4) all won their singles matches.
Mercer Island dropped the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches, ending any chance for a comeback, despite the 6-3, 6-3 victory by Colin Ramsay and Joey Nishida.
“We didn’t convert where we needed,” said Hedlund. “Obviously, this is a year to learn a lot.”
The jubilation of the Bellevue players left Hedlund with some solace.
“We are still the school to beat,” said Hedlund. “The Bellevue kids were running all over. I am glad we are making someone happy.”
Sammamish 5, Mercer Island 3
The Islanders let two three-set losses dictate the outcome of their meet with the Totems on Wednesday.
A 7-6, 6-1 victory by Schmidt at No. 3 singles and Sean Gorey’s straight sets 6-4, 6-4 won at No. 5 singles were overshadowed by the four singles-match losses.
Eddie Jiranek and Schmidt teamed up to give the Islanders their only other victory, a straight sets victory 6-2, 6-2.
“Eddie played better, and Max had an incredible second set,” said Hedlund.
One player who has had a tough year is No. 1 singles player Matt Ellis, who has not won this season in singles play.
“He gave it his all, but that guy from Sammamish is really good,” said Hedlund.
One good thing for the Islanders is that the losing should be over. The team drew the top four teams in 3A KingCo, in order, to start the season.
“I don’t think the boys realized how tough it would be,” said Hedlund. “I think they now realize that the other boys come to play.”
The last of the top tier teams visited Mercer Island Monday (after Reporter deadline) as the Islanders took on Issaquah. Mercer Island’s next match will be at Mount Si today. But instead of the matches counting toward a possible 3A KingCo team title, every player is now fighting just to get into the KingCo tournament at the end of the season.