South Whidbey's Riley Newman is toppled as 2A state tennis champion

South Whidbey’s Riley Newman rushes to the net to return the ball in the 2A championship final against Will Topp. - Brian Kelly
South Whidbey’s Riley Newman rushes to the net to return the ball in the 2A championship final against Will Topp.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

SEATTLE — Riley Newman knew this day might come.

The state 2A tennis finals on Saturday was a serious grudge re-match between defending champion Newman and Sehome’s Will Topp.

This year at the Nordstrom Tennis Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, Topp turned the tables on Newman and came from behind to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

It was the third time the two had met on the court this season but the first time Topp finished first; Newman had won previously in regular and District 1 play. In the 2009 championship match, Newman brought home a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Newman had played some tough matches to get to the finals. He won 6-0, 6-3 over Jonathan Haukaas of Long High School and 6-1, 6-3 against Josiah Jackson of Ellensburg before facing the eventual third-place winner from Interlake.

But it wasn’t easy; Newman clawed back from a 1-5 deficit in his semifinal match to win 7-5, 6-3 against Luat Le.

“Riley won some nice matches, just not the last one,” said Falcon coach Tom Kramer. “Nevertheless, Riley played some remarkable tennis.”

Kramer noted that Newman started strong against Topp, taking four straight games at one point, but the grueling match-up in the semis started to take its toll.

Newman agreed.

“I was down 5-1 in the semifinals, but finally won,” Newman recalled. “I had a tough draw and it took a lot of energy out of me; not enough left in the tank, I guess.”

He added that Topp played the best Newman has seen and deserved the win.

“When Topp and I play, it’s who can control the tempo of the match,” Newman explained. “I was ahead 4-1 until the middle of the second set but he pushed me back and took over.”

Kramer said the meltdown was clearly visible from the viewing area.

“Riley lost eight or nine straight and couldn’t recover,” Kramer said.

Kramer noted that Topp made the most of his chances when Newman faltered.

“But that’s in the nature of tournament play at this level,” Kramer added. “Will played a fine match. They are both juniors, and both will be back at it in the fall.”

Newman said he knows he’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

“I’m leaving this one in the past, and not looking back,” he said.

Topp finished third at state as a freshman before being runner-up last year. Newman’s state action includes a fourth-place finish as a freshman, a championship and now second place.

The Sehome Mariners took the team trophy for the second consecutive year while Clarkston unseated Klahowa as the

champion on the girls side. South Whidbey placed fifth for both boys and girls teams.

In doubles action, Falcons Shannon Craig and Julia Iversen ended in third place — their season record, including finals, was a remarkable 22-1.

They handily beat Karmina Markus and Haily Larson of Prosser 6-1, 6-1, then overcame Emma Anderson and Olivia Koelsch of Tumwater 6-4, 6-3 to advance.

In the semifinals, the partners fell in a hotly-contested third set tiebreaker 5-7, 6-4, 10-12 to Squalicum’s Amy and Becca Wilson, who they had beaten at districts.

“That was a hard one to take,” Kramer said. “The ball was in our racquets to win but we couldn’t pull the trigger.”

But Kramer was proud that Iversen and Craig rallied to beat Katie Servatius and Katie Van Cleave from Clarkston 6-0, 6-1 to take the third spot.

“They went back to playing normal,” Kramer said. “They were calm and determined at the end.”

Iversen said the large crowd and the pressure of a chance to advance to the finals may have been factors. But she gave due credit to the opposition.

“They were playing with a lot more consistency than at districts and that might have thrown us off,” Iversen said. “We were ahead 9-6 in the tiebreaker and just couldn’t pull it out. It was emotional for us, our first and only loss all season.”

Iversen added that after the loss, she and Craig agreed to settle down, have fun, play some first-class tennis and end the tournament on a high note by beating the Clarkston girls.

“All in all, it was a very good year for Shannon and myself,” she said.

Bellingham’s Bella Hoyos and Megan Mullarky ended the day as state doubles champs.

The lone female Falcon singles player, Reilly O’Sullivan, finished the tournament in sixth place.

“Reilly gave a good account of herself,” Kramer said. “She won a fine match against Tumwater — 6-1, 6-3 over Rachel Howard — then lost 6-2, 6-0 to the girl who ended up in second place, Maggie Becker from Klahowya.

“Overall, I couldn’t be more proud of each athlete,” Kramer added. “Nancy [assistant coach Ricketts] and I appreciate all the hard work required during a long season for them to get here.”

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