Sports

South End rises again in Whidbey’s Civil War of tennis

Lindsey Newman eyes her return during Whidbey Cup action on Sunday at the courts at South Whidbey High School. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Lindsey Newman eyes her return during Whidbey Cup action on Sunday at the courts at South Whidbey High School.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

The war turned out to be a rout.

In the annual Civil War matchup between the top tennis players on North and South Whidbey, the South rose again to take the Whidbey Cup, 21-5, in Langley this past weekend.

Don’t fault the visitors from the north, though. South Whidbey leaned on two battle-tested title-holders to collect the cup: Lindsey Newman, a three-time 2A state champion, and her brother Riley, last year’s 2A state champ.

Kevin Jorgensen, organizer of the South End team, summed it up nicely before the trophy was presented at the close of the two-day tournament on Sunday.

“I only have five words to say: Thank God for the Newmans,” he said.

“I really hope the Newmans reproduce forever,” Jorgensen added.

Advanced and intermediate players from both ends of the island played more than two dozen matches — men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed — on the courts of South Whidbey High School on Saturday and Sunday to determine the best of Whidbey. The ages of the competitors ranged from 15 to 82.

South Whidbey jumped to an early lead in the tournament, thanks to the Newmans.

Jason Huffaker of Oak Harbor was the first to face one of the South End’s fabled royalty of the court.

In singles play against Riley Newman, Huffaker rallied at the end before falling 6-2, 7-5.

It was Huffaker’s first year playing for the cup.

“He’s really good,” Huffaker, 31, said of Newman, who will be a senior next year at SWHS.

“It makes you realize how quickly you get old. I’ll have to enter adult tournaments from now on,” Huffaker laughed.

Newman, though, said Huffaker wasn’t as creaky as he made himself out to be.

“He tested me, for sure,” Newman said.

The Whidbey Cup has been passed back and fourth since 2004, though the South End players have only lost the tournament twice — in 2004 and 2008.

The lopsided history of the cross-island rivalry has led to desperate measures at times. Did someone say “ringer”?

“Sometimes the north tries to get people from off the island, but we catch them,” said Teresa Wheeler, a member of the South Whidbey Community Tennis Association and one of the organizers of the event.

Except the one time when their ringer was a lawyer, she laughed.

“We didn’t tangle with them on that one,” Wheeler recalled.

Wheeler noted that the North End has more trouble recruiting for the annual matchup, since many talented players are in the military and move away from Whidbey after a few years. The North End team now gets some of its players from Coupeville, while the South End squad picks up players from Greenbank south.

Though the competitive spirit runs deep, the tournament play is good-natured, with plenty of ribbing and trash talk no matter who is on the court. It continued through the final match of the weekend, when the team of Riley and Lindsey Newman faced Huffaker and Kim Hedger of

Oak Harbor in mixed doubles.

Lindsey Newman, sporting a pair of radioactive-orange sneakers her brother could only humbly describe as “neon,” was the popular target of the shots lobbed from off-court, many from her own team.

“Nice shot, shoes!” “Great play, shoes!”

Riley kept his critique to a minimum, however.

“We know what each other is going to do [on court]. There’s not much we can say to each other,” he said.

Though the tournament is typically split, with one day of play on each end of the island, the sad state of the courts in Oak Harbor led this year’s tourney to be held entirely on the South End.

Jorgensen said next year’s tournament will likely be played entirely on the North End.

“It’s real nice to see everybody out playing friendly, competitive tennis,” he said. “I hope this continues every year.”

“It’s really brought us together as an island, and as friends,” Wheeler added.

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