South Whidbey senior Alex Foode was tired. At one point she thought she’d throw up. But this was her last chance, and she knew it.
Stopping wasn’t an option.
Locked in a grueling first set against Scarlett Ren of King’s in the finals of the class 1A District 1 tournament at South Whidbey High School on Wednesday, Foode could do little else except continue to grind out points. She eventually beat Ren in a 10-8 tiebreaker to win the set that lasted nearly an hour. It sapped Foode’s strength but gave her the confidence she needed to beat the Knights’ top singles player, 7-6, 6-3.
“I definitely learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was and that I have more determination really than I thought,” Foode said. “That was pretty cool to figure out, honestly. Because before I’d kind of given up on myself and thought, ‘Oh, I’m down and I can’t win.’ But, to really just bring out the tenacity in myself is pretty cool.”
With the win, Foode earned her first ticket to the 1A bi-district tournament at Amy Yee Te Center on May 19-20 in Seattle. There she will face off against the Emerald City League’s best. She won’t be alone either. Senior Bayley Gochanour and sophomore Mary Zisette also won a district title in a 6-0, 6-1 win over King’s Audrey Friedline and Rachel Giroux. The two-time district champions beat Baily McCutchen and Callie Wright 6-1, 6-0 in the first round.
“On both of those matches, we came off feeling like we played well and that we just kept our tempo up,” Gochanour said.
“I think if we play this way again, we’re going to do really well,” Zisette added.
South Whidbey won the two-team tournament, but Foode, Zisette and Gochanour are the only ones advancing. South Whidbey doubles tandem Taylor Hamilton and Sarah Hodson and the Falcons’ second singles player, junior Robin Maciel, were eliminated after two losses.
Gochanour is the Falcons’ most experienced postseason performer; she’s come up short of state in three previous attempts at the bi-district tournament, including when she and Zisette were eliminated in 2016. She hopes to turn things around this year.
“I feel like we’re more ready than we were last year,” Gochanour said.
The roadblock at the bi-district tournament that Gochanour has faced in the past can be attributed to the toughness of the Emerald City League which produces more state champions and medalists than any other conference in the state. While they face a tough road ahead, Kramer believes the Falcons are peaking at the right time. A full season can sap the energy of high school athletes, she says but the Falcons were partially spared due to the weather. The rain forced them indoors for many practices.
“We are not burned out and we are fresh,” Kramer said. “They’re peaking right now which is ideal. At this point, we’ve just got to go play and do our best and see how it unfolds.”