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South End junior tennis team takes tournament title
South Whidbey is rapidly gaining a reputation as the center of the universe for tennis excellence.
The latest evidence came June 21 when four South End girls and three boys toppled four teams from British Columbia, Whatcom and Skagit counties to win the Bellingham Junior Team Tennis Tournament.
Noah Frank, Amelia Weeks, Chase Collins, Guy Sparkman, Hannah Calderwood, Carlie Newman and Hayley Newman played combinations of mixed doubles and singles to overcome their opponents.
Karlye Kramer organized the 14-and-under group for the event, sponsored by the United States Tennis Association.
“The idea is to introduce kids to the tournament format, specific to junior team tennis,” Kramer said.
Parent/manager Bobby Frank said the event was a surprise to the other teams.
“We blew the Bellingham team away,” Frank said. “We won 20 games and moved on to the final round, against Camano Island. So we played the top-seeded team, which was stocked top to bottom with experienced players who obviously had many years of lessons under their belts.”
Noah Frank and Collins lost the first round of boys singles. Calderwood and Weeks tied their doubles match, then Sparkman beat Frank Medlicott of Stanwood, 4-2.
Sparkman, who will join the South Whidbey High School tennis team this September, said he’d watched the fellow he would eventually play against.
“I was speechless at how good he was,” Sparkman recalled. “But when we started, he tried to hit the ball hard every time and began to make errors and costly mistakes.
I think he was a little overconfident.”
Girls singles was next, and Hayley Newman beat Melissa Blair of Stanwood, 5-1.
Newman, sister to recent high school state champions Lindsey and Riley Newman, also won the sportsmanship award for the team.
“We were all tired, but we managed to pull it off,” she said.
“So going into mixed doubles we were up by two games,” Frank said. “Carlie Newman and Noah played valiantly, but lost 2-4. So we were all tied and had to play a nine-point tie breaker in mixed doubles. We elected to play Guy and Hayley. The match went down to the second-to-the-last point, and we won 5-3 over a team from Camano Island.”
Frank said the performance by the South Whidbey players demonstrated more confidence, increased court presence, smarter decisions, more consistency and more chance-taking.
“To a person, they competed hard and never gave up,” he said. “The perseverance of our players was truly a beautiful thing to behold. Each and every one of the kids became a better player right before our eyes over the two days.”
Kramer said the tournament was important because Langley Middle School has no tennis program to feed players into the high school.
“There is a huge difference between practice and the tournament experience,” she said.
“This was a classic, underdog triumph and a great example of grace under pressure.
“All of us are proud of them.”