Sports

South Whidbey’s top singles players aim for state

Riley Newman, a senior, hits a forehand winner during action in the Island Cup. Newman expects to return to the state tournament and could go undefeated in the regular season.    - Brian Kelly / Record file
Riley Newman, a senior, hits a forehand winner during action in the Island Cup. Newman expects to return to the state tournament and could go undefeated in the regular season.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Record file

The state tennis championship series is tied at 1-1 between South Whidbey High School senior Riley Newman and Sehome star Will Topp.

This is Newman’s last year to outplay and outlast his competition en route to the championship match.

Newman champions the boys tennis team for South Whidbey and looks to return to the state 2A championship. The bar is set high for Newman, who reached the championship match the past two years and won in his sophomore year.

“The expectation is for Riley to win at state,” said Tom Kramer, boys tennis coach.

“I don’t see [Riley] losing during the regular season. Van [Morgen] too,” said Kramer of his top two singles players.

But he isn’t the only boys tennis player with stately ambitions. Kramer paired juniors Zach Comfort and Harrison Price to be the top doubles team.

“We’ve never been to state, so we don’t know the competition,” Price said.

He worked to turn the three-time varsity duo from singles-minded players to a doubles team last season. Price attributed his serve-and-volley game to coach Kramer.

“He made me more complete,” said Price of Kramer. “My game’s much more well-rounded.”

Kramer explained coaching them through the repetition of serve, return and volley, and said he would like to see their serves improve. Both are quiet on the court, which Price said developed from their long friendship since Comfort moved to South Whidbey in the fourth grade.

“They’re becoming more offensive-minded,” Kramer said. “The trick for them is to play aggressive in practice, too.”

They show signs of understanding how to work together on the court. Price explained they both understand how the other feels and thinks during a match, leaving pep talks out of their repertoire.

“Neither one of us talks much on the court,” Price said.

The team will need to be aggressive in a difficult league. Kramer said Anacortes, Bellingham and Burlington-Edison are the teams to beat this season.

“We’re certainly going to be competitive in all our matches,” Kramer said. “But we’re not waiting to see who steps up to the plate.”

Price admitted he didn’t work on tennis enough during the offseason, and blames the “hiccups” in their game to offseason lapses. He admitted Comfort had the winning serve due to Comfort’s power.

The team is small in number but evenly distributed by grade. Four seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen comprise the varsity and junior varsity groups.

“We’ve got some young guys who are coming along,” Price said.

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