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GIRLS TENNIS: Kentwood claims SPSL North title
The race for the South Puget Sound League North Division girls tennis crown won’t be going down to the wire this season.
Kentwood saw to that last week, upending league-rival Kentridge 3-2 in a pivotal SPSL North tennis match.
With the victory, the Conquerors (8-0 entering the week) essentially put the clamps on the North crown. Kentridge (4-4) would have been mathematically alive for the North’s top spot with a win. With two league matches remaining entering the week, Auburn (8-2) was the only team within striking distance of the Conquerors. However, Kentwood made it official on Monday by knocking off Kent-Meridian 4-1.
Last spring, the Conquerors found themselves in a three-way battle for the top spot during the final 10 days of the season and were unable to get the job done.
It was a different story last week.
“We knew that destiny was in our hands and I laid that out in front of the kids before the match (against Kentridge) and they came through,” said Kentwood coach Ingrid Bakke said.
The key for the Conks has been the steady play of veterans, the coach noted.
“These girls have been able to come through,” Bakke said. “The kids who are leaders have really been there when we needed them to because most of our wins are 3-2. I have counted heavily on the kids who’ve played well in the past.”
Against the Chargers, who were among the favorites entering the season, Bakke received the expected standout play from Nikki Skinner (No. 2 singles) along with the league’s top doubles tandem of Tess Manthou and Alyssa Nagai.
Skinner knocked off Kentridge’s Vicky Tran 6-1, 6-1. Manthou and Nagai throttled Kentridge’s Alissa Lee and Karissa Lau, 6-3, 6-0.
The two victories set the tone for the Conquerors, but didn’t clinch a victory.
The clincher for Kentwood came at No. 3 doubles, where Anastasia Hicker and Maddi Belmondo delivered the goods when it was needed most. Hicker and Belmondo upended Sunita Venkatesh and Rachel Schmidt, 6-2, 1-6, 6-0.
“That was big because we had to have that one,” noted Bakke. “It definitely came down to that match. It was clutch. They came out and won that third set. It was an impressive third set.”
Kentridge picked up wins from Kyana Esber, who held off Eliana Spero in a tightly contested battle (7-5, 6-4) along with No. 2 doubles team Beth VandenHeuvel and Katie Ly, who outlasted Aera Shin and Chelsea Jamieson (6-2, 6-3).
The SPSL North title is Kentwood’s first since 2007, when the Conquerors rolled to a 13-1 record.