Photos by Gerardo Bolong
Anya Bonner of Mt. Rainier (left) and Alicia Gim shake hands after Bonner's No. 2 singles victory against the Jefferson athlete.

Raiders top Rams

By Gerardo Bolong

SPSL 4A girls pre-season favorite and defending Central Division girls tennis champion Thomas Jefferson locked horns with SPSL North contender Mt. Rainier in Des Moines on Fri., March 21, with the Raiders claiming a 4-1 non league team tennis win.

"We had five good, competitive matches," said Ram head coach Tim Lee who is in his 28th year at the Mount Rainier helm. "This was a test we needed to see where we are. Thomas Jefferson is the top team, so this helps in future matches and practices so we can work on what is needed."
Junior Anya Bonner carried the banner for Mt. Rainier on this sunny, although slightly chilly afternoon with her achievements in the No. 2 girls singles against TJ sophomore Alicia Gim.

Controlling the action by way of patience and steadiness, Bonner posted a 6-2, 6-1 verdict.

"We were pretty even, but I stayed consistent and kept hitting the ball back on the court until she made unforced errors. She's a good, young player. For me, the best offense is a good defense. I made it to district last year and I just want to do better."

At No. 1 singles, Kristina Stevanovic fought long and hard before a two-set loss to TJ's Cindy Park. After Park earned a 6-3 first set win, the Ram individual carried the battle to her Raider counterpart before a late service break enabled Park to escape with 7-5 second set win.
Ariana York and Alessia Pepe teamed up in No. 3 doubles against the Raider pair of Erica Lee and Bethany Stellick in a tough 6-3, 6-1, loss.
Ram netter Svetlana Avanesyan paired up with Zuhra Amini in No. 2 doubles against in a 6-3, 6-1, defeat that featured several tough rallies that turned the tide in Jefferson's favor.

After being beaten decisively, 6-0, in the first set of No. 1 doubles Mount Rainier's Alex Boyle and Karissa Pallagi fought back to make Jefferson's tandem of Coco Hernandez - Tagoe and Gloria Oh dig deeper into the competitive tank to claim the second set at 6-3.

Last season, the North was a three-way fight to the finish that included Kentridge, Mt. Rainier and Kentwood.

Kentridge claimed the top at 9-1, Mt. Rainier was second at 8-2 and Kentwood finished at 7-3.

"It's going to be the same as last year," said coach Lee. "The decider was Kentridge's sweep of Kentwood. we have a nice blend of experience with some younger players. The girls are playing tough and showing more confidence."

Key returners for Lee are state singles participant Stevanovic, Boyle, Pallaggi, Bonner, Avanesyan and Maria Manuel. Newcomers to watch are Amini and York plus possible junior varsity players.

Heading into his 28th year of Raider coaching, Andrew Buchan agreed with Lee's assessment of the North while also expressing great confidence in his own squad.

"Mt. Rainier has the top North singles player in Stevanovic and Bonner is strong at No. 2," he said. "Mt. Rainier will fight it out with Kentridge and Kentwood. Kentridge will be tough match for Mt. rainier due to the individual and doubles match up possibilities. Our team is deep and experienced. Auburn will be tough for us in the Central. Lauren Thornquist at singles is tough, but the South is so tough in singles, our best hopes are in the doubles. Last season we got Cindy Park and Crystal Lee to state. We are looking to get multiple entries at state and that will be most likely in doubles."

Previous Mt. Rainier results are below.

March 18th- MR defeated Curtis 5-0 (non league). Kristina Stevanovic defeated Jesse Swafford 6-0, 6-2; Anya Bonner beat Jenne Joo 6-0, 6-0; Alex Boyle/Karissa Pallagi stroked past Amilia Wald/Jeny Chang 6-2, 6-1; Svetlana Avanesyan /Zuhra Amini outlasted Jami Tran/Serina Dawa 6-3, 7-5; Mariya Manuel/Ariana York over Yen Cho/Daek Lee 6-0, 61.
March 20th - MR defeated Kent-Meridian 5-0. Stevanovic over Laura Tran 6-1, 6-2; Bonner defeated Kimberly Ly 6-0, 6-0; Boyle and Pallagi defeated Karissa Vong and Gheremie 6-0, 6-2; Avanesyan and Amini over Molly Pham and Marcella Li 6-0, 6-1; York and Pepe defeated Alina Kubay and Songul Gafurova 6-1, 6-2.

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