Falcons ready for start of state tennis finals this week

The five South Whidbey girls and one guy headed to state tennis finals on Friday, May 29. Standing are Nicole Zalewski, Shannon Craig, Lindsey Newman, Julia Iversen and Victoria Comfort. In front are Falcon coach Tom Kramer and Riley Newman. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
The five South Whidbey girls and one guy headed to state tennis finals on Friday, May 29. Standing are Nicole Zalewski, Shannon Craig, Lindsey Newman, Julia Iversen and Victoria Comfort. In front are Falcon coach Tom Kramer and Riley Newman.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

Six South Whidbey tennis players are headed to state finals this weekend in Seattle.

Based on District 1 results at Sehome on Thursday, singles player Lindsey Newman will play Friday and Saturday at the Nordstrom Tennis center at the University of Washington.

Doubles players Nicole Zalewski and Victoria Comfort are on the bill as well for the Falcons, with Shannon Craig and Julia Iverson as alternates.

South Whidbey came in second in the tournament. Bellingham won the team title with 18 points, followed by South Whidbey with 17 points. Squalicum was a distant third with 13 points.

They’ll be joined by Riley Newman, who qualified at the end of last fall’s boys tennis season. On Oct. 23, Newman defeated Sehome’s Will Topp (2-6, 6-3, 6-4) to become the first Falcon boys district tennis champ in 20 years.

At the district tournament, Falcon Maya Hough lost to Grace Moore from Lynden 2-6, 0-6 in the first round.

“Maya played Lynden’s top-seeded singles player,” said Falcon coach Tom Kramer. “She gave the team a good effort in her first district tournament appearance.”

South Whidbey’s Natalie Wheeler lost in the second round to Maddie Pearse of Squalicum 6-4, 1-6 and 0-6.

“Natalie played some great tennis in the first match, and started off very well in the second,” Kramer said. “She lost her concentration in the second set and could not get it back.”

And then there was Newman, clearly on track to become only the first South Whidbey tennis player to win three state titles in a row. Not the first to win three times, though — Falcon Karyle Kramer claimed that honor in 1986, 1988 and 1989.

Newman defeated Molly Beaumont of Bellingham 6-1 and 6-2 to advance to state.

“The match with Molly went very smooth and I expect to run into her again next weekend for a re-match,” Newman said.

“Lindsey had another outstanding tournament,” Kramer noted. “She won districts again and will return to state with the goal of repeating as state champion. Unsurprisingly, she was voted again as the MVP of the Northwest League.”

In doubles action, South Whidbey’s Katie Holt and Jenn Gemkow lost in the second round to Anne and Andrea d’Aquino of Squalicum, 3-6, 6-2 and 6-7.

“Katie and Jenn played very well in this tournament and deserved to continue further down the road. They finished the year with a 14-2 record,” Kramer said.

Shannon Craig and Julia Iversen lost to fellow Falcons Nicole Zalewski and Victoria Comfort 6-7, 2-6 and will serve as doubles-team alternates.

“Shannon and Julia had a great tournament, playing some outstanding doubles,” Kramer said. “They were very competitive throughout and defeated some very good teams in the process and finished fifth out of 33 teams overall.”

Comfort and Zalewski lost to Shannon Gowan and Sarah Twiford of Bellingham 6-4, 1-6 and 3-6 to place fourth overall.

“Victoria and Nicole played very well, but in some of the matches consistency was again a problem,” Kramer noted.

Each Falcon player is preparing in his or her own way.

“I’m playing against anybody and everybody,” Lindsey Newman said. “The more people I play, the more diverse my game.”

Her only real opponent is Bellingham’s Molly Beaumont.

Newman said Falcon coach Tom Kramer told her to “finish my matches quickly and get them over with.” It’s a tip Newman intends to follow in Seattle.

Zalewski and Comfort ended in fourth at districts and neither felt they played well.

“I choked in two of our matches,” Comfort admitted. “But we’re putting all that behind us and working on serves, getting our feet moving and staying hungry for the ball.”

Riley Newman’s problem is the seven-month gap between districts and state finals. Kramer didn’t want him to get too rusty or concentrate too hard on state.

“The coach told me to take a few months off, so I concentrated on basketball,” Newman said.

“I entered a tournament in Seattle last month and came in fourth; three wins and one loss. I’m building on that and honing my volleys and focusing on coming up to and through the ball.”

He has no doubts he’ll face Topp again.

“And they’ve got another guy, Evan Bedell, who’s very good, too,” he said. “But whoever I face, I’m ready as I’ll ever be.”

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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