Girls tennis teams are double trouble at state
June 4, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The top doubles tennis teams from Liberty and Issaquah high schools had a lot in common this season.
Both teams paired a senior with a junior. Issaquah’s girls team consisted of senior Sam Garrard and junior Kelsey Wilson, while Liberty had a similar duo of senior Kristy Braunston and junior Jenny Adams.
The teams each took second place at the KingCo championship. Garrard and Wilson finished second to Garfield in the 4A tournament, while Braunston and Adams fell to Mercer Island in the 3A competition.
Finally, in what was a rematch of the KingCo championship for both teams, each earned second-place medals in the state tournament.
Issaquah improves on last year’s finish
At last year’s 4A state championship, Garrard and Wilson came in a respectable sixth place. This year, however, they were determined to improve on that.
“Last year was our first year playing together and I didn’t even know if we’d get to state,” Garrard said. “But this year, we trained all year for state.”
The Issaquah duo’s road to the 2013 finals began May 24 with a tough opening-round match against the team from Thomas Jefferson High School.
“Our first match was probably the hardest one we had the entire tournament,” Garrard said.
The girls got off to a quick start, winning the first set, 6-1, before a rain delay temporarily halted their momentum. They dropped the second set, 7-6. After a slow start to the final set, in which Issaquah was down 3-0, the girls fought back to win the game, 6-3.
“As soon as we won that match, we knew we could go far because we were down so much on that third set,” Garrard said.
The duo advanced to the next round, where they made quick work of Bellarmine Prep, defeating them in straight sets.
“We were all over the net, being super aggressive,” Wilson said.
In the semifinal match against Camas May 25, Garrard and Wilson again defeated their opponents in straight sets, but the match was closer than the 6-3, 6-3 score showed, Garrard said.
“That was an interesting match because they actually watched us the match before,” she said. “So, they knew everything we had missed on, everything we were doing well. They had an advantage that way.”
The win catapulted them into the state finals against Fiona Cerf and Alexia Fife, familiar opponents from Garfield. The Eagles fell to Garfield, 6-2, 6-2, but there was no bad blood between the conference foes.
“If we were going to lose to any team, it would be them, and they said the same thing,” Wilson said. “We get competitive on the court, but once we’re off of it, our families are friends.”
For Garrard, it was the perfect way to end her high school career, beside Wilson, one of her best friends.
“As a senior, it was really cool. I went as far as I could go,” she said.
Garrard, who received the Tutta Bella Scholar Athlete Award from the Issaquah Booster Club, will continue her tennis career at Seattle University. It will be bittersweet to play without Wilson, she admitted, but the duo plans to stay in touch.
“Our friendship goes way beyond the court, and that’s why I’m not really sad that it’s over,” she said.
Liberty goes farther than it ever has
The Patriots’ duo of Braunston and Adams will be the first to admit that they literally came out of nowhere this year to make a splash in the state tournament.
“There are all these teams in KingCo, and Liberty is at the very bottom,” Adams said. “Out of nowhere, we just come out and take second in state. It’s just unheard of.”
That’s why, after the state finals match May 25, the girls refused to take off their second-place medals.
“We went to Olive Garden afterwards and we kept them on,” Adams said. “We just didn’t want to take them off.”
Liberty faced Stanwood in its May 24 opening-round match, winning, 6-1, 6-1. In the next round, they beat Southridge, 6-4, 6-1, despite a rain delay that forced them off the court for 30 minutes.
“Yeah, the delay shook us up a little bit,” Braunston said. “We just wanted to get it over with.”
The Patriots won the semifinal match against Lincoln, 7-5, 6-1, which sent them to the finals against Lydia and Gabrielle Venditti, of Mercer Island.
Adams and Braunston had lost to the Vendittis in the KingCo and District championships just weeks before.
“In the state game, we switched it up because we knew if we played the same way we’ve always played, we were going to just have the same results,” Braunston said.
The Vendittis secured victory once again, but Liberty put together their most competitive game yet against the sisters.
“No one has ever challenged the Vendittis in anything,” Adams said. “Here, we totally challenged them and because of that they made probably four double faults in the whole match.”
Along the way, the Liberty duo earned the respect of powerhouse Mercer Island and other teams at the state tournament.
“No one had ever heard of Liberty before, but now they’ve heard of us,” Adams said.
Adams and Braunston made school history, becoming the first Liberty players to ever make the state tournament, let alone get to the championship game.
The only regret the duo has about their historical run is the fact that they did not play doubles together in 2012.
“We may have done even better this year if we played last year, because the Vendittis have been playing together since they were 4,” Braunston said. “We’ve been playing together for like two months.”
Braunston will continue her tennis career at Bellevue College, while Adams plans to rally her Liberty teammates to put in work during the offseason in preparation for 2014.