Skyline tennis suffers pre-season loss to Islanders
March 18, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
With nearly all new players, the Skyline girls tennis team is starting fresh this year. Mercer Island, on the other hand, is not. It beat the Skyline Spartans 6-1 in a March 14 preseason match.
“Definitely, the skill set on Mercer Island is higher than ours,” said Bettina Gehle, head coach of the Spartans. “They are more aggressive. They are more demanding on the court.”
Since 2010, Mercer Island has earned eight 3A state medals, including last year when Nora Tan won the title. This season, Tan plays No. 1 singles and beat Skyline freshman Julia Lioubarski, 6-1, 6-1. In the other singles matches, Lydia Venditti bested the Spartans’ Shareenn Sivakumas, 6-0, 6-0; Gabby Venditti beat one of Skyline’s few returning varsity players, Jasmine Ye, 6-0, 6-2; and Miji Suhr of Mercer Island beat Sherry Huang, 6-2, 6-1.
In doubles, Caroline Dillon and Caroline Hamilton beat Skyline’s No. 1 duo, Sonya Ye and Jessica Journeycake, 6-2, 6-0; and Sarah Kahan and Ashley Larson beat Sonjana Galgalikas and Rianna Eduljee, 7-5, 6-4. The Spartans snatched their only victory that gray afternoon on Mercer Island, when Courtney Kirton and Avery Sampson beat Mindy Wienberg and Catherine Seifert, 6-3, 5-7, 1-0.
Part of the problem, explained Gehle, is that her players don’t have that much experience with competition at this level. For most of the girls on Skyline’s team, this was their first ever high school varsity match. There is, however, value to losing to a team like Mercer Island.
“It is a first match and it is a good experience,” Gehle said. “So what do we have to do in order to compete with these kind of people? The good thing is that everyone is trying; they are really. That’s very, very good.”
On top of graduating three seniors last year, Skyline’s No. 1 and No. 2 singles players didn’t return. Backfilling the Spartans this season is a large group of girls that have moved up from junior varsity, including Sonjana Galgalikas and Rianna Eduljee, who Gehle complemented while watching their match.
“It’s a good dynamic. They are actually hustling. They give them, actually, some challenges there, from what I can see, and I really like that,” she said. “It’s a more building year, probably. We will work hard, and we will see how far we are coming.”
Just as Theresa Huang took the helm as a freshman last year and played No. 1 singles for Skyline, Lioubarski is also a freshman this year and she too finds herself leading the Spartans as their No. 1.
“It’s fun. You get a lot of good matches since a lot of the other girls are a lot older,” Lioubarski said.
It wasn’t her best game March 14, Lioubarski explained, and Tan is a fierce competitor.
“She hits the ball really hard, she knows how to place it really well too. She has some spin on her backhand that makes it tougher to get,” Lioubarski said. “I started really slow, and then, toward the end of the game, I started picking it up more.”
With the regular season yet to start, Lioubarski said her goals are just to get as many wins as she can and try her best.