T-Birds in three-way tie going into finals
By Lukas Bachmann - Staff Reporter
The Highline women's tennis team is headed to Spokane for the Northwest Athletic Conference championship this weekend.
The team is coming off a loss against tournament host Spokane but are making a strong argument that they are not to be overlooked by anyone.
This year, the Thunderbirds went 6-2 in conference, along with adding a few out-of-conference wins against four-year schools to their list of achievements.
They are in a three-way tie for first in the conference with Bellevue and Spokane, with the edge given to Bellevue due to their better win percentage.
The Thunderbirds program is only two years old but is poised to make another push for the title.
Last year, in their first season, Highline was narrowly edged out by Bellevue for the title.
Four Thunderbirds placed first in that tournament and two are players still on the team this year, team captain Celeste Andreotti and Samantha McElwein, who won the No. 4 and No. 6 singles, respectively.
Both returning players also placed first in No. 1 and No. 3 doubles but did so with partners that have since graduated.
Highline is not the only program with players returning that have playoff experience, however.
Bellevue has three players returning: Kathleen Nolan who placed in second for No. 4 singles and placed first in No. 2 doubles with fellow returning player Holly Wright. Yuri Takagi is also returning for Bellevue. She placed in first in No. 3 doubles.
Spokane has the least number of players returning with only two.
Ashley Rotchford and Estefany Barragan both placed in fourth in No. 5 and No. 6 singles, respectively.
Although the Thunderbirds have split their series with both Bellevue and Spokane, the tournament is a very different beast.
This tournament is set up so that placing in first, second, or third will give the player's team points and the team with the most points takes home the trophy.
In theory, a team could place second in all nine matches and still take home the title if they outscored the other teams.
Each match has a different score value as well starting with No. 1 singles and doubles awarding 20 points to first place, 17 to second, and 15 to third.
These point values drop by two for every match after the No. 1 tournaments, so the No. 2 singles and doubles match would only award 18 points to first place.
Spokane Head Coach Wally Heidenson said that this tournament is ripe for the taking for three teams.
"In the women's there are three teams that could win it, Bellevue, Highline, and Spokane. If I had to pick one I would pick Highline as the favorite right now," Heidenson said.
Thunderbirds Head Coach Laura Rosa also believes this tournament to be between the three schools.
"It is matching up to be quite a tournament. I think we are right in the hunt along with Bellevue and Spokane," Rosa said.
Rosa also said that this style tournament may be beneficial to some teams over others.
"The format of the NWAC Championship Tournament is different than what we have played all season. There are nine separate flighted draws. This system probably favors Highline and Bellevue over Spokane," Rosa said.
Despite that possible disadvantage, Spokane has home court advantage, which can make or break a team Rosa said.
"It's Spokane's home courts, so they know the surface and conditions, but there is always more distraction for the host school," Rosa said.
Rosa said she is confident the team will do well in this tournament.
"Amila Gogalija has to be favored to win both the No.1 singles and No.1 doubles draw with her partner Celeste Andreotti. Any of our other five players can also finish in the top two of their prospective draws," Rosa said.
The Northwest Athletic Conference championship takes place May 11 - 12 at Spokane Falls Community College.