Patriots tennis duo punches ticket to state

May 21, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

At the beginning of the spring sports season, the Liberty tennis team’s top two singles’ players approached coach Mike Salokas and informed him that they were going to make the state tournament this year, and they were going to do it as a doubles team.

Fast forward just a few months later, and it appears that Jenny Adams and Kristy Braunston are geniuses as they prepare to head to Kennewick to compete in the state championship May 24 and 25.

By Greg Farrar Kristy Braunston (left) and Jenny Adams, Liberty High School tennis doubles partners, volley back and forth to their coach Mike Salokas during practice May 17 at Tibbetts Valley Park.

By Greg Farrar
Kristy Braunston (left) and Jenny Adams, Liberty High School tennis doubles partners, volley back and forth to their coach Mike Salokas during practice May 17 at Tibbetts Valley Park.

“My greatest coaching accomplishment this year is saying OK to them playing doubles in the KingCo tournament,” Salokas said.

It’s a significant achievement for a Liberty tennis team that historically has not had much postseason success.

The road to state began May 7 with the KingCo tournament at Mercer Island High School. Adams and Braunston made quick work of their first two opponents, defeating two of Bellevue’s three doubles teams in straight sets.

The wins catapulted the Liberty duo to the semifinals, where they faced Mercer Island’s No. 2 doubles team in a grueling, back-and-forth match.

“They were extremely good players,” Braunston said. “We came out and we beat them in the first set and then they came back to win the second set, so then we had to play a third set with them, and that was extremely close, but it ended up going to a tiebreaker.”

The tiebreaker started out ominously for Liberty when they fell into a quick 5-0 hole. At that point, Mercer Island only needed two points to capture the win.

“To be honest, during that particular period of time, and maybe it’s based on my coaching experience at Liberty, but I thought they could have easily packed the tent and folded,” Salokas said. “They didn’t, and it was awesome to experience.”

Adams and Braunston fought all the way back to win the tiebreaker and secure the second seed in the district tournament, a first for Liberty tennis. The team dropped the final match in the KingCo tournament to Mercer Island’s top doubles team.

“By that point, we were exhausted,” Braunston said. “We already felt accomplished, because we were seeded at districts, and we got a bye the first game.”

That bye in the district tournament would prove to be key, since it meant that Adams and Braunston needed to win only one game to get to the state tournament. They accomplished that feat with a quick victory against Bishop Blanchet’s doubles team May 14.

Qualifying for state is more than a personal accomplishment for Adams and Braunston, it’s also an important boost for the Liberty tennis program.

“It’s definitely a huge legacy, because tennis has never been strong at Liberty,” Adams said. “Just to show that Liberty can actually make an impact in tennis, it’s a big deal.”

Salokas said he expects the state appearance will spur Liberty tennis players to ramp up offseason workouts, and inject a much-needed boost of enthusiasm into the program.

“I think this experience will kind of resonate into next season,” he said. “I don’t see it doing anything but helping the program.”

Adams and Braunston will face Stanwood High School’s doubles team May 24 in the first round of the state tournament.

 

Issaquah duo heads to state, too

A year after they took sixth place at the state doubles tournament, Issaquah High School’s team of Sam Garrard and Kelsey Wilson are back at it again.

The duo will travel to Richland for the 4A state championship, where they will take on the doubles team from Thomas Jefferson High School in the first round of the tournament May 24.

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