T-Bird tennis finishes second in NWACs
By Calvin Domingo - Staff Reporter
The Highline tennis team's impressive season culminated in three singles championships which resulted in a third consecutive second-place finish in this past weekend's NWAC's.
"Such an amazing Championship weekend, the weather was perfect, and the competition was fierce," Highline Head Coach Laura Rosa said. "We were in the hunt until the last matches finished and that is how a championship is sup- posed to be."
Sophomore and team captain Danielle Mendoza said that the past weekend turned out to be exactly what they had hoped for.
"The NWAC Tennis Championship was what we were all looking forward to," she said. "There was so much practice and preparation leading up to it. We focused so much on our conditioning and wanting to be the fittest team. It was so much fun to see all the teams in one area competing for the same title."
Despite finishing as runner-up to Bellevue in the past three seasons, Coach Rosa said that the season overall was still a success.
"The T-Birds peaked at the right time and played their best tennis of the season," she said. "Unfortunately, our best just wasn't quite enough to overcome Bellevue and their unconventional roster."
Coach Rosa continued by saying that the Lady Thunderbirds will instead remember the journey, not the destination.
"Five years from now, the women on this team will remember traveling with their team, they will remember the team dinners and how bloody hot it was on the court," she said. "They will re- member that they stood up to the best in the conference and never wavered, and they will remember that they had each other's back. And ultimately, they will remember that we walked into the finals and did it our way."
However, Mendoza said that finishing in second place behind Bellevue was disappointing.
"It does sting," Mendoza said. "Everything leading up to this tournament was to take over as champions. But, at a certain point we just have to let it go and let our tennis do the talking and not worry about the point system behind
it." As for results of the tournament, sophomore Miriam Cabrera kicked things off for the Lady Thunderbirds in No. 1 singles and eventually finished in fourth place after falling at the hands of Spokane runner-up Hannah Plank, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
"[Cabrera], who I still believe is the best doubles player in the Conference, had to face off against the best of the best and she never backed down," Coach Rosa said.
In No. 2 singles, freshman star Lexi Maison finished as champion after defeating Bellevue's No. 2 seed, Chen-Yu Tang, 6-0, 6-0.
Highline also finished as champions in No. 3 singles, as freshman Mikyla Olsen defeated Bellevue's No. 1 seed, Haylie Irving, 7-5, 6-2.
"I felt very accomplished because my opponent that I played, I had [actually] lost to her a couple weeks back in a very tough match," Olsen said. "It felt like redemption."
In No. 4 singles, Mendoza took home third place as she defeated Skagit Valley freshman Yuri Ito, 7-5, 6-2.
For their third and final championship, Thunderbird freshman Kaylin Phan defeated Bellevue's No. 2 seed, Anna Sneesby, 6-1, 6-3.
"I was super excited, but I knew I didn't win because of luck," Phan said. "My coaches have taught me a lot and my teammates pushed me to by my best this whole season. Even though I was the champ, I have them to thank for it."
To cap off singles, T-Bird Nikelle Price finished in third place as she took care of business against Skagit Valley's Grace Davis, 6-7(3-7) 6-4, 6-0.
In doubles, the dynamic duo of Cabrera and Maison finished in second place to the Bellevue tandem of Panchuk and Tang.
Highline's No.1 doubles team fell, 9-7.
"We were [initially] down 1-6 and we came back," Maison said. "We could [have] beat [them], but it's really hard to come back from being five behind."
In No. 2 doubles, the pair of Mendoza and Olsen fell to Bellevue's No. 1 seeded duo of Sneesby and Annie Luong, 8-3.
"I'm not upset about where we finished," Mendoza said. "We lost to this team before, but I feel like we improved so much from our last match against them. We came in with a better mindset which helped us as a doubles team. Each game was extremely close, but the mistakes made were minor."
"What I think we could've done better was fix our small mistakes in the beginning," she said. I'd say we played every game how we wanted to, it's just the unforced errors [that] got to us."
To cap off doubles action, the pair of Phan and Price finished in third place, as they defeated the Skagit Valley duo of Inna Mayer and Davis, 8-1.
"I'm not as confident in doubles as I am singles and I think I let that fear take over me," Phan said. "For me personally, I think I should've been less afraid and taken riskier shots. I learned that when something doesn't work, you just have to keep trying different things. There is no giving up."
Aside from tournament play, plenty of things stood out. Chief among them being when Mendoza received a prestigious award.
"The biggest moment of the tournament for us was when our sophomore captain Danielle Mendoza was awarded the Wally Heidenson Sportsmanship award," Coach Rosa said. "This honor is selected and voted on by other coaches in the Conference and is bestowed upon the player who best represents the mission of the NWAC in both competition and character. As a team, that had to have been our proudest moment."