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UPDATE | Lindsey Newman wins third tennis title, brother Riley claims 2A crown

From left, South Whidbey doubles players Nicole Zalewski and Victoria Comfort, Falcons coach Tom Kramer, Lindsey Newman and assistant coach Nancy Ricketts celebrate winning 2A girls tennis championship title in Seattle on Saturday. - Brian Kelly
From left, South Whidbey doubles players Nicole Zalewski and Victoria Comfort, Falcons coach Tom Kramer, Lindsey Newman and assistant coach Nancy Ricketts celebrate winning 2A girls tennis championship title in Seattle on Saturday.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

Even Santa doesn’t have this many surprises in his bag.

Lindsey Newman won her third straight state 2A tennis title Saturday in a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

The second gift was the gutsy performance of her brother Riley, who won his first state title on an adjacent court.

“It’s a parent’s dream come true,” said their father, Mike Newman. “Better than Christmas.”

The star on the tree was the awarding of a state 2A title to the girls tennis team in a tie with Klahowya High School.

Lindsey Newman, a senior at South Whidbey High School, won by beating Tracy Landram of Klahowya 7-6, 6-2.

Playing on the next court, Riley Newman prevailed in a near-marathon battle against Sehome’s Will Topp 7-5, 6-3 to win his first championship in boys 2A tennis.

“This was a huge moment for me, my family, my teammates and the school,” Lindsey Newman said when all was done. “I won’t stop grinning for a month.”

She is the only athlete in school history to win back-to-back-to-back titles, in any sport.

With the Falcon doubles team of Victoria Comfort and Nicole Zalewski placing fifth after losing to Bellingham’s Shannon Gowan and Sarah Twiford 7-5, 7-6, the South Whidbey High School girls tennis team also won the state 2A girls tennis title, the first team victory for South Whidbey since 2004. The Falcons were named co-champions with Klahowya.

It was the final state tennis tournament for Lindsey Newman, who will graduate this month. She received a standing ovation from the crowd gathered at the University of Washington’s Nordstrom Tennis Center as she left the court with her third title.

To ascend to the finals, Newman overcame Maggie Becker of Klahowya 6-2, 6-2, Abigail Pettet of Ellensburg 6-1, 6-3 and Elise Rooney of Clarkston 6-0, 6-1.

The Lindsey touch

Newman entered the tournament with an 18-0 singles season record. Over the past three years, her record was 63-2, including two state championships.

Her final match wasn’t the walkover that some predicted. Landram took the lead early in the first set by three games before Newman rallied.

Landram was undefeated in league and district play and had no losses until Saturday. She came as a real surprise to Falcon coach Tom Kramer. Only a freshman, she blasted her way to the final round by toppling Molly Beaumont of Bellingham and MacKenzie McWilliams of Hockinson.

“I was a bit concerned,” Kramer admitted. “I watched Landram in warm-ups and she caught my attention, so I watched her play and knew Lindsey would have to be very good to beat her.”

Kramer said Newman is a master at pulling off the shots she needs, but it was tough at first.

In the first set, Landram served and returned a series of hard, fast, accurate shots that seemed to confuse Newman, who lobbed lazy returns back across the net. Landram was in baseball mode, Newman playing softball, or so it seemed.

Landram’s powerful backhand helped move her ahead three games after a half hour of play.

According to former Falcon tennis champ Karyle Kramer, aggressive players like Landram want their opponents to fire back just as quickly. When they don’t, it can cause them to rethink their strategy.

Kramer should know, having taken the tennis crown for South Whidbey as a freshman, junior and senior in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

But Newman stayed the course, made her shots with pinpoint precision, and it was Landram who was forced to adjust. Newman became more animated as her advantage grew; stooping over to look at the baseline when she called shots out, and pumping her fist after winning several tough volleys.

The second set went quickly — Newman never trailed — until match point was reached and Landram hit outside the line.

Newman was greeted with thunderous applause from the scores of spectators present, including about 40 from South Whidbey.

“She was hoping I’d play her game, but in the end she played mine,” Newman said of Landram.

“She made some great shots,” Newman said. “She’ll be back next year, I’m sure. She has nothing to be ashamed of,” she added.

Through tears, Landram said she was disappointed, but plans to return.

“I respect that Lindsey works so hard,” Landram said. “I came here today hoping to play my game but her game beat mine.

“I had her down and she came back, so I guess I may have learned about what it takes to be a true champion.”

Riley’s turn

The road to the final match saw Riley Newman beat Jeff Koss from Mark Morris 6-0, 6-0, Paxton Magaway from Steilcoom 6-1, 6-1 and Kashif Khan from W.F. West 6-2, 6-3.

Khan was unhappy with his performance.

“I didn’t play to my level,” he said. “I missed five or six overhead shots and I’m usually 100 percent. Riley played his game; I didn’t play mine.”

Topp was 21-2 (both losses to Newman) before the state tourney, and there was a sense this was a bit of a grudge match, since Newman had last beaten him at districts in October.

Coach Kramer had purposely arranged for the Newmans to play next to each other.

“I wanted to make it easier for their parents, the fans and you guys (the press),” he said.

But Topp had quite an advantage, too.

His fans and friends quickly snagged seats directly over the court. Dozens of loyal Sehome supporters had turned up to cheer for Topp, and the entourage was easily the loudest in the Nordstrom Tennis Center during Saturday’s games.

Riley Newman said he began the match against Topp extremely stressed out, which may have accounted for the 2 hours and 10 minutes it took to finish the first set.

“I was really tense and had to force myself to relax and shut out the yelling from Will’s fan club,” Newman said. “I was down in the first set and came back. At that point I knew I could do it.”

His coach said that, just 10 days ago, he had doubts whether Newman was ready for the big time.

“He wasn’t mentally ready to play,” Kramer said. “He’s been shooting hoops and playing baseball since districts in October. But he knuckled down to the task, worked hard and got his timing back.”

Kramer said Newman, a sophomore, had a relatively easy first match and was able to better prepare himself. By the time he faced Topp, he was ready.

Just as well, as the boys went toe-to-toe in a slugging match that just wouldn’t quit. But as match point grew closer in the second game, Riley’s demeanor visibly relaxed and a broad grin emerged as he pumped his arm into the air in sheer jubilation and snapped like a broken spring when Topp’s final overhead spin crossed the line.

Since Topp is a sophomore, they’ll likely meet again when boys tennis season begins in a few months.

Kramer said that both Newmans were lucky in the order of their matches — each harder than the next — but the reality is that real champions can make their shots at this level, even under heavy pressure.

“They were very impressive, both of them,” Kramer added.

Newman was fully aware of the action on the center court next to him and Topp. At one point, Topp called a medical time-out and Newman spent five minutes watching his sister play.

“When I had the chance, I was checking on the scores to see how Lindsey was doing,” he said. “Then it was back to business.”

Along with a medal, both got to keep the official bracket chart showing their progress over two days; it was Lindsey’s third and Riley’s first.

“We’re going to have to find a bigger wall,” Riley said.

The Newmans have down this road before, sort of. Older daughters Jenny and Caitie Newman were part of the 2004 championship team. Jenny placed second in singles; Caitie was third in doubles.

Double trouble

In girls doubles, Victoria Comfort and Nicole Zalewski’s first day saw them beat Lindsay Beattie and Haley Taylor from Black High School 7-5, 7-6, then cruise to a win over Pat VanderHoven and Rachel Knight from Fife 6-0, 6-4.

On Day 2, the girls lost to Brandi Benner and Jill Toronchuck of Lynden 6-4, 6-1, setting them up for a third/fifth-place showdown against Bellingham.

After playing quality tennis on the first day of the tournament, Comfort and Zalewski felt they let themselves down a bit.

“I thought we played well, just couldn’t pull it out in the end; those girls were the same pair we lost to in districts,” Comfort said.

Zalewski added that she felt disappointed in the outcome. “We were holding back, maybe not applying as much pressure on them as we should have,” she said.

Though taking a fifth place hadn’t been their goal by any means, they were happy to have contributed to the season that ended in a team title for South Whidbey, the sixth since 1988.

“How cool is that?" Comfort asked.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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