Marathon matches net payoff for tennis team

"Paired with Paige Jolley on the Falcons' top doubles team, senior Kaitlin King digs her heels in for a long, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 match against Everett.Matt Johnson, staff photoTypically, the first week-and-a-half of the tennis season is a good time to experiment with a varsity lineup, work on court finesse, and even lose a couple of close matches in hopes of learning from mistakes.But in the first nine days and five tennis meets of the season, South Whidbey High School's girls team has transformed itself from a wet-behind-the-ears, rookie-laden squad into the racquet-swinging juggernaut of Wesco 3A tennis. In both singles and doubles competition, the Falcons have played beyond their coach's expectations to win against Monroe, Lake Stevens, Jackson, Everett, and Lynnwood on a playing schedule compressed by two rain days last week. This week, the team even grabbed two shutouts, blanking Everett and Lynnwood 7-0.All this success comes from a varsity lineup that has remained almost unchanged from the first match of the season, something Falcon coach Tom Kramer finds almost unbelievable. Like most other tennis coaches, Kramer moves players around the lineup -- between singles and doubles and different levels within each category -- until he finds a winning combination. This season, he and his girls found that combination on the first try.They stepped up a little sooner than I anticipated, Kramer said. We surprised and shocked just about everyone.The initial lineup is so good that four of the team's players are still undefeated. Playing at second singles, Kylie Bozym overwhelmed five opponents, playing only one long match during the run, a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. Number three singles player Jenny Newman, who was pulled up from the junior varsity team for the Falcons' first meet against Monroe, also cruised through the early season without a loss. In doubles, the pairing of Jaci Gutzmer and Svenja Koejn has also been perfect.Still, the first five meets have not exactly been a breeze for the Falcons. Three set matches that go into tiebreakers have almost been the norm. Newman and Bozym played two of the longest matches of the week in a 6-1 win over Jackson Friday, while number-one singles player Jenny Saephan had her own 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 scare against a Lake Stevens opponent in a 4-3 team victory Monday. Gina Felton and Kelsey Simmons also went the distance against Lake Stevens, losing a 7-5, 7-5 heartbreaker.Next on the Falcons' schedule is a home meet Tuesday against Stanwood. The Spartans squeaked by Everett Thursday in a 5-2 match, but could well find themselves on the losing side against the Falcons, who dispatched Everett handily Tuesday afternoon. "

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