By NEIL PIERSON
For a team with eight brand-new varsity players, the Medical Lake girls tennis squad is pretty happy with how its Great Northern League season wrapped up.
The Lady Cardinals improved their final league mark to 6-8 with a 5-2 victory over visiting West Valley last Wednesday.
ML finished fifth among eight teams in the GNL, a result Lady Cardinal coach Dawn Eliassen said she was “completely happy with.”
“To finish in the middle of the pack works for me,” Eliassen said. “We'll have eight returning players next year instead of eight new ones, so we can only see even more success.”
ML's top seed, Bri Bazo, opened singles play with a 6-1, 6-2 win over WV's Hilary Hargrove. The sophomore played so well throughout the season that she nabbed the No. 1 position from senior Kaila Roberts
“Bri played really strong tennis,” Eliassen said.
“She continued with the same strategy of attacking the short balls and looking for the put-away at the net.”
Roberts, playing at No. 2, lost a back-and-forth match with WV's Stephani Starmer, 6-7 (5-7), 5-7. Eliassen said Roberts used a wicked forehand to earn an early lead in the second set, but couldn't hold off Starmer in the end.
No. 3 seed Libby Hoff was a 6-4, 6-1 victor over WV's Melissa Johns, proving once again that she's one of the Lady Cards' most consistent players.
“Libby just went out and did her thing,” Eliassen said. “She is just so consistent that it's tough for anyone to find a chink in her armor.”
Fourth-seeded Megan Waldorf also contributed heavily to the victory, rallying to beat WV's Katie Baxter 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. It was the sophomore's first win of the season.
“She really stepped up her game and strung a series of great shots together,” Eliassen said. “She really hit her stride in the middle of the second set and by the end of the third she just looked so confident.”
ML's Ana Ayos and Makinzy Small led the doubles, winning their No. 1 match over Bonnie Powell and Shauna Udell (6-3, 6-1).
“This was a good win going into districts,” Eliassen noted. “It'll help their seeding out a bit.”
The second-seeded team of Nissa Van Meter and Arielle Aguado downed WV's Kelly Staley and Michelle Cumpton 6-3, 7-5, though Eliassen felt the results probably weren't as close as the scores indicated.
“I felt like Nissa and Arielle were in control of the match the entire time,” she said. “Nissa's serve was dialed in the whole match and Arielle found her backhand at practice this week.”
The Lady Cards' only other loss of the day came at No. 3 doubles, where Jessica McDaniels and Chelsea Dixon lost to Paola Andrade and Andrea Philen 4-6, 3-6. Eliassen was still pleased with their effort, noting their improvement over the course of the year.
“These two may not have come away with a win, but they look like a completely different team than they were at the beginning of the season,” she said.
The Lady Cards open District 7 competition on Friday at Clarkston. The top two singles and top two doubles teams qualify for the state tournament.
Eliassen also noted a tremendous improvement in the school's junior varsity program, something that should bode well for the program's chances come 2008.
Neil Pierson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org