Riley Newman rebounds for fourth place at state tourney

Riley Newman springs for his serve against Jimmy Do in the first round of the WIAA 2A state tennis boys singles tournament. Newman won the match 6-1, 6-1 at the University of Washington.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Riley Newman springs for his serve against Jimmy Do in the first round of the WIAA 2A state tennis boys singles tournament. Newman won the match 6-1, 6-1 at the University of Washington.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

SEATTLE — The Newman sibling rivalry continued on May 27 at the 2A state tennis tournament.

Riley Newman, a senior, represented the South Whidbey boys tennis team in singles. Hayley Newman, a sophomore and Riley’s sister, represented the girls tennis team in singles. Both Newmans won their first-round matches in two sets in a best-of-three format.

Riley Newman controlled the court against Jimmy Do (sounds like doe) from Black Hills in straight sets 6-1, 6-1. He varied his serves from power to kick. His baseline strokes alternated from a heavy-handed topspin to a slice or lob.

“That’s usually how I’ve always played — just that steady moving them around, just controlling every single point,” Newman said.

Do never got into a rhythm and his serves, especially first serves, were erratic and unreliable.

South Whidbey tennis coach Tom Kramer called Do’s strategy during the warmup. He said Do planned to rely on his first serve and that it wouldn’t work against Newman.

Kramer’s analysis proved correct. When Do didn’t make his first serve, the points were decidedly in favor of Newman.

For the first time in two years, Newman did not play in the state tennis singles championship.

Newman’s quest to repeat as the state singles champion was dashed against sophomore Luet Le (sounds like Lou-ought Lay) of Interlake. Newman was close to extending a season-long streak of not losing a first set.

Then the match changed.

“Not taking anything away from Le, he’s a good player,” Kramer said. “I thought of all the players in the tournament, Riley had the answer for his style of play. I don’t think Riley played a consistently good tactical match against him.”

Le won the first set 7-6 in a tiebreaker. Newman described Le as consistent with hard first serves that, when they were in, allowed Le to rush the net — a serve and volley player.

“He knew that if he stayed at the baseline whacking balls with me all match, I’d win,” Newman said.

In the second set, he tried to hit deeper returns to pin Le to the baseline. Newman’s adjustments weren’t enough, though.

“I missed a couple easy ones that I usually don’t miss,” Newman said. “I played well, but I mean, there were definitely opportunities that I could have taken advantage of.”

Kramer said those points determined the first set, which determined the outcome of the entire match. In hindsight, Kramer said Newman should have hit the ball sooner, plus deliver more consistent first serves and drive the ball deeper to keep Le on the baseline.

“[Newman] had a couple match points in the first set that certainly changed the complexity of the match, that he just didn’t convert,” Kramer said.

Le won the second set 6-4 to send Newman to the consolation bracket.

“It was a great match to play in,” Newman said. “I had a lot of fun. Looking back at it, I didn’t play my best tennis. But, I mean, I played well. Me and Le were both equally matched.”

Last year Newman defeated Le in the state tournament. This year, the roles reversed.

“It could have gone either way,” Newman said of this year’s match.

It was similar to the 2010 state championship when Newman lost to Will Topp from Sehome in three sets. He won the first set, only to lose a close second set before losing the third and final set. In 2009, Newman won the state championship against Topp, 7-5, 6-3.

After his second-round loss, he felt disappointed that his goal to repeat as the state champion would not happen.

“Going back to the hotel that night, I mean, I was disappointed because I knew that I couldn’t win the state championship,” Newman said. “And then, my family just kind of said, ‘Don’t throw in the towel here — two matches left of your high school senior career. And don’t give up yet, finish out strong, go out on a good note.’ I really listened to that.”

Newman returned to form after his lone loss of the season. He defeated Micah Roos from Port Angeles 6-1, 6-4 and Mallory Maloney from Sequim 6-1, 6-2. Those wins put him in fourth place.

“Every point of the last match I played against Mallory, I thought ‘Wow, my high school career is over,’” Newman said. “And I just couldn’t believe it because it all went by so fast.”

Le advanced to win the state championship against Joe Kwiatkowski of  Lindbergh 2-6, 7-5 and won the third set 6-4.

“It was pretty clear it was Riley or this kid that was going to win the tournament,” Kramer said.

“He [Newman] was one of the very best players there, and his scores reflected that,” Kramer added.

Newman won his sets 6-1, 6-1; 6-1, 6-4; and 6-1, 6-2. The journey to play in the state championship match three years consecutively was over. The goal to reclaim the championship title was over, too.

“I’m never going to forget my high school career,” Newman said. “I’m going to tell my kids that I won my sophomore year. High school tennis has been just unreal for me."

Here's a link to the PDF of the full 2A boys singles bracket.

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