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Seniors power Falcon girls tennis over Overlake Owls
LANGLEY — In South Whidbey’s toughest test this season, the Falcon girls tennis team defeated the Overlake Owls 5-2 Thursday afternoon.
The Falcons (3-0 Cascade Conference, 4-0 overall) are undefeated, but had a match against Bellingham, also undefeated, rescheduled twice. Thus far, the Falcons have cruised through their competition, including a stretch of five matches in five days this week.
“They’re one of the better matched teams that we’ve played,” said Falcon senior Claire Hofius.
The Falcon doubles teams swept their Owl opponents in straight sets. At first doubles, Amelia Weeks and Kalie Stayskal defeated Caroline Spencer and Emily Water 6-1, 6-3. Behind Weeks’ powerful first and consistent second serves, Stayskal was able to protect the net and clean up soft returns.
Playing for the first time together, seniors Jessica Cary and Hofius held on to beat Christina Kuklinski and Elaine Kissel 6-4, 6-3. Cary crowded the net, attacking cross-court shots, like her forehand volley to win the fifth game in the opening set.
“We both have our strengths. I like her deep shots, and I’m really aggressive at the net most of the time,” Cary said. “It worked really well.”
Hofius added, “This was one of the first doubles matches where we’ve been able to identify things we can improve, and we both told each other all the time.”
Cary and Hofius employed a conservative doubles plan. Hofius, the shorter of the two seniors, played near the baseline which allowed Cary to command the net. Overlake’s team was forced to lob, but rarely approached the net or backed down Cary to the baseline, leaving her to win points on volleys and overheads.
“(We) just kept the pressure on and stayed aggressive,” Cary said.
South Whidbey’s third doubles team of Lucy Rock and Amanda Lee recovered from losing the first set to beat Emily Day and Becca Nelson 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In Lee’s first varsity match, the first-time doubles partners needed a set to familiarize each other with their playing style.
“Every coach wants to see their players tough it out and never give up; this was a great example of that philosophy,” said Falcon head coach Karyle Kramer. “It would have been easier for them to fold after losing the first set or after being down in the second, but they just kept playing their game and got the win out of it.”
South Whidbey’s top two singles players, and sisters, junior Hayley Newman and freshman Carlie Newman, won in consecutive sets. Hayley Newman continued her streak of near-perfect matches and has not lost a set this season. Against Owl freshman Catalina Otero, Newman won 6-0, 6-0. The score was deceptive, however, as Newman and Otero traded baseline strokes for several rallies.
“She’s definitely a lot harder than what I’ve played so far,” Newman said.
“In second period, Mr. (Tom) Kramer gave me a 20-minute pep talk, maybe half an hour. Before every game he’ll give me a bunch of tips.”
Newman’s former coach told her she would need to vary her shots to beat a player like Otero. The Owls’ best singles player had a powerful forehand with plenty of jump when it hit the court. Newman said the key to beating her was taking away that shot by slicing, lobbing, hitting deep and hitting short.
“If you mix it up, lob, dink it, short, going to the net, she’s not used to it and it throws her off,” Newman said. “And she hit it in the net or out of bounds, so that’s what I continued to do.”
The challenging match proved a few things to her coach. First, Newman rose to the competition, rather than settling into one style. Second, she attacked the net.
“I give Hayley a lot of credit for those set scores; she showed she is serious about her play and not willing to give away anything,” Kramer said.
“I like it.”
Newman’s younger sister quickly dispatched her opponent Claire Bond 6-1, 6-2. Like her older sisters Hayley and Lindsey, a three-time state champion a few years ago, Carlie wears down her opponents with long rallies and by returning most of the shots.
The only losses for South Whidbey were at third and fourth singles. Overlake’s Tammy Eydleman defeated South Whidbey senior Tessa Chiarizio 6-0, 6-1. First-time varsity singles player Falcon sophomore Katrina Layton lost 6-3, 6-3.
“This was Katrina’s first time playing singles and she made a good showing,” Kramer said. “I’m trying to mix up a couple of singles spots each match, giving different players an opportunity to play singles rather than doubles.”
Kramer, in her first season coaching the Falcon girls tennis team, has implemented a fluid lineup. Rather than having set singles positions and doubles partners during the season, South Whidbey changes its roster often. Only junior Hayley Newman has remained as the top singles player, a spot she’s likely to keep as she tries to return to the 2A state tennis tournament.
South Whidbey hosted Anacortes (1-0 Northwest Conference, 2-2 overall) on Friday after the Record went to press. The Falcons host the Lakewood Cougars again at 3:30 p.m. Monday, March 26.