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GIRLS TENNIS: Kentwood hoping for repeat performance
Kentwood High girls tennis coach Ingrid Bakke would love nothing more from her Conquerors this spring, but she’s well aware of how tough the road ahead will be. And to duplicate last year’s success, when the Conquerors grabbed the league title with a perfect 10-0 mark and went on to win a district title and take second at state is almost unthinkable.
“I think all the teams (in league) this year are pretty tough,” Bakke said. “I think we’ll have to have a really special year to repeat.”
Indeed. Especially when considering the Conquerors entered the season as the consensus favorite among league coaches to repeat at South Puget Sound League North Division champions, but also with a huge target on their backs. Of course, there’s good reason Kentwood is the top vote getter this spring. While the Conquerors lost considerable talent to graduation, they still return two of the best players in the state in junior Tess Manthou and senior Eliana Spero.
Last spring, Spero doubled with teammate Nikki Skinner to bring home a seventh-place finish at the state tournament. Meanwhile, Manthou teamed with Alyssa Nagai en route to a third-place finish at state. Both Nagai and Skinner graduated, leaving Manthou and Spero without partners. It might seem obvious to pair the two Kentwood standouts together, thus quickly forming one of the top doubles teams in the state at the drop of a hat, but Bakke isn’t yet convinced that’s the best plan of action.
“When we get closer to the end of the year, we will talk about what we want to do,” Bakke said. “We haven’t decided anything yet. Right now, we just want to play each match to win.”
And the Conquerors have accomplished just that, cruising to an unblemished 3-0 mark entering the week. Other than a 3-2 victory over Tahoma, Kentwood has dominated, throttling Kentlake (5-0) and repeating the feat against Kent-Meridian (5-0). More impressive, however, might be how the Conquerors have won their first three matches. Instead of sticking with the same lineup each time out, Bakke has shuffled the cards a bit, but came out with the same results. Spero opened the season in No. 1 singles and quickly dispatched Tahoma’s Wata Fafesh, 6-0, 6-2. A few days later, Maddie Belmondo filled the top slot, and worked her way to the same result, knocking off Kentlake’s Mackenzie Bolton 6-2, 6-3. Rachel Venn completed the Kentwood trifecta in the No. 1 singles spot days later with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Kent-Meridian’s Karen Gomez.
During that same span of team victories, Manthou remained in the doubles slot, but teamed with three different Conquerors and came away with a 2-1 record.
With the pieces in fold, it would appear the Conquerors have what it takes to repeat as league champs.
“It’s doable,” Bakke said. “But it will be hard.”