Senior Ella Simpson calls the Mercer Island High School girls varsity tennis program a close-knit sisterhood.
The Islanders care about one another and create relationships while striving to notch victories, she added.
Fellow senior Ava Chatalas said that team camaraderie is at a premium during matches, practices and other team activities. She feels the immense support from her teammates each time she steps onto the court.
“Even with the cancellation of my sophomore year season and all the other COVID-related challenges, our team has never lost its enthusiasm and continues to thrive,” Chatalas said.
The captains, who are both four-year varsity starters, helped lead their squad to a 2-0 record in 3A KingCo matches and 3-0 overall mark at press time. Last year, the Islanders ran the league table with an 8-0 record against Newport, Sammamish, Bellevue and Interlake during a truncated season due to the pandemic. The girls notched five 7-0 victories during their solid campaign.
Simpson, who plays both singles and doubles this season, began playing tennis with her dad at age 7. Fast forward to last year, and Simpson found herself honing her skills as part of a stellar squad that has kept its momentum rolling into the present day.
“We all really wanted to be there. Everyone on the team was excited and cared about showing up and getting it done. I think with no postseason playoffs last year, that want and drive just continued into this year and I know we all want to win it all,” Simpson said.
Chatalas dug into the sport when she was 8 and is playing in the doubles realm this season.
“The past two years our team has been deep, meaning we have a high level of skill throughout our team ladder. Aside from our skill, we were all genuinely excited to be with each other once again, which helped rekindle our team spirit,” Chatalas said.
Whether they’re swinging their rackets on the court or engaging in their daily lives, the girls can apply the lessons they’ve learned over the years to wherever they roam.
“My emotions have always been super prevalent in playing and in my outside life, so (I’m) channeling those and using my feelings to better my skills,” Simpson said.
Added Chatalas: “Positive self-talk and grit are not only essential in tennis, but can be applied to any facet of life.”
The Reporter asked Simpson and Chatalas a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives:
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Simpson: When people call me “dude” or “bro.”
Chatalas: Slow drivers… Especially on West Mercer Way.
What special skill would you like to learn?
Simpson: How to drive a motorcycle.
Chatalas: I would love to learn how to play the guitar. I am not musically inclined in the slightest, but I have always been interested in this instrument.
What’s your dream job?
Simpson: Corporate lawyer turned politician!
Chatalas: A promotional event planner for a big-time fashion company. I love planning events/logistical thinking, so this job would utilize this skill set and I would have fun in the process.
If you could go to dinner with one person, who would that be?
Chatalas: I would love to go to dinner with Lady Gaga. I have watched some of her interviews and she seems like a very interesting person.
What’s your most binge-worthy TV series?
Simpson: “Grey’s Anatomy,” always.
Chatalas: “The Queen’s Gambit.”
What song could you play over and over and over again?
Simpson: “Country Must Be Country Wide” by Brantley Gilbert.
Chatalas: “Doses and Mimosas” by Cherub.
What’s something that you’re afraid of that you’d like to overcome?
Simpson: Trying new things that I am not good at yet.
Chatalas: I would like to overcome my fear of driving in downtown Seattle. I will do it if absolutely necessary, but I avoid it at all costs.