Spartans wallop Wolves in KingCo girls tennis

May 1, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Tarika Sivakumar and Rianna Eduljee had never played together before, but the Skyline High School tennis duo looked like old pros when they hit the court last week.

Eduljee, a junior, and Sivakumar, a sophomore, were paired up in the No. 1 doubles slot when Skyline hosted Eastlake April 22 in a Class 4A KingCo Conference match. Eduljee and Sivakumar had relatively little trouble beating Alison Tran and Angela Zou, winning 6-4, 6-0 to lead the Spartans to a 7-0 victory over the Wolves.

Eduljee typically pairs with Shreenu Sivakumar – Tarika’s older sister – in doubles matches, but Spartans coach Bettina Gehle shuffled her lineup and got good results from the new pairing.

Tarika Sivakumar said the match went well in most aspects.

“Both our serves were going really well; I think that was the main thing,” she said. “We were able to play strategy better, just kind of wear down the opponent.”

Eduljee said she’s unsure who she’ll partner with at the conference tournament, which Skyline hosts May 12-14, but feels confident either way.

“Shreenu is going to be playing singles for a few games … so we’ll just see if it maybe completely clicks and (Tarika) ends up being my new doubles partner,” Eduljee said.

Skyline dominated Eastlake in most matches, needing a third set on only one occasion. That came at No. 4 singles, where Shreenu Sivakumar outlasted Kayla Lee (6-1, 3-6, 6-3).

The Wolves were missing their usual No. 1 singles player, Katie Park, who sat out because of what coach Bud Peterson termed “exhaustion.” Peterson expects Park will return for the postseason.

With Park out, Skyline’s Theresa Huang had her way with Nicole Yen, winning 6-3, 6-2. Huang skipped her sophomore tennis season, but has returned as a junior and has set an ambitious goal for herself – placing at May’s Class 4A state tournament.

Against Yen, Huang felt her backhand and serve were strong, but she needs to improve most facets of her game, including her forehand, volleys and footwork. And she’s trying to maintain focus on the remaining regular-season matches rather than the KingCo tournament.

“I’m trying not to think about it,” she said.

In other singles matches, No. 2-seeded Julie Lioubarski of Skyline defeated Michelle Knutson (6-1, 7-5), and teammate Jasmine Ye ousted Nicole Knutson in the No. 3 match (6-1, 6-0).

At No. 2 doubles, Skyline’s Kourtney Kirton and Avery Sampson beat Ashwathy Goutham and Maria Angulo (6-2, 6-0). Spartans Hilary Taylor and Emily Licholai took out Shabina Rayan and Amber Vander Kooi (6-1, 6-1) in the No. 3 match.

Eastlake has a mix of experience and youth in 2014 – nine of the 12 varsity regulars are returning from last season, while the other three are freshmen. Peterson said the team missed Park, but shifting roles against Skyline wasn’t entirely negative.

“We had some players who don’t normally have a chance to play in (varsity) matches at all that are playing today,” he said. “It’s always fun to come up here and play Skyline … This year, they have our number. Maybe next year the tables will be turned.”

The Wolves will send at least six players to the KingCo tourney – teams that finish in the top half of the standings qualify an additional singles player – and Peterson is optimistic about advancing at least one to state. Park has been there before, he said.

“It’ll be a full house at KingCo,” Peterson said. “It’ll be tough sledding there.”

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