Photos by Gerardo Bolong
Karissa Pallagi stretches for an athletic forehand for Mt. Rainier.

SLIDESHOW: Rams serve up title

By Gerardo Bolong

With the co-championship of the SPSL 4A North Division girls tennis regular season hanging in the balance, Mt. Rainier was in a 2-2 team match deadlock with visiting Kentridge before perseverance prevailed in the final match on court one in Des Moines under variable light winds and passing clouds on Tues., May 6.

All other courts were devoid of players as the Ram tandem of Alex Boyle and Anya Bonner fought it out against Christine Huynh and Theresa Tran in the No. 2 doubles wind up match.

Mount Rainier controlled the first set 6-1, but found the challenge to be greater in the second set. Trailing 2-1, the Ram pairing utilized a service break to help get them to a 4-2 lead. The Rams and Chargers each held serve to make the score 5-3 with Kentridge on serve. After the Chargers struggled and held serve, the teams switched sides from where KR won a breaker to draw even at 5-5. Following three attempts to break serve, Boyle and Bonner finally won a break pint to go ahead 6-5. Boyle served strongly for a 40-0 Ram lead in the point before ripping a passing forehand down the line for game, set, match, team win and title for Mt. Rainier. The Rams finished at 9-1 to forge a tie at summit of the North with Kentwood. Mt. Rainier and Kentwood exchanged home and home wins during the season.

As teammates hugged each other, Boyle tried to express herself.
"They got tougher and we might have gotten a little nervous (in the second set)," Boyle said. "Kentridge played well. It was just a nice match."

The preludes to the final encounter were nerve wracking, for the most part.

Lefty Jessica Lam won first singles, 6-0, 6-0, against a very hard competing Mariya Manuel to send Kentridge into the early lead.

In No. 3 doubles the Mt. Rainier tandem of Svetlana Avanesyan and Zuhra Amini prevailed in two energizing sets against Daniella Aberion and Ashley Varma. Trailing 5-4 in the first set, the Ram representatives gained a service break before holding their own serve for a 6-5 lead.

One more break of serve clinched the first set at 7-5. In the second set, the Rams gained control for a 4-2 advantage. Each team failed to hold service on the way to 5-3 score before Avanesyan and Amini took the clincher and ended the set at 6-3.

"Both teams were equally good with skills," Avanesyan said. "We noticed that one of them had a tough time on backhands so we shot to her backhand and avoided setting up volleys. Once we pointed that out, we plotted out our strategy."

The next battleground was No. 2 singles on court four where Mt. Rainier freshman Ariana York went toe to toe against Taylor Kuwahara. High drama held sway in the first until Kuwahara emerged with a 7-6 (7-2) gritty first set win. York returned to the court looking rejuvenated for the second set as she out dueled her opponent and had her moving all around the court before posting a 6-1 victory. The freshman from Hawaii who moved into the area last summer kept her focus and dominated even more to take third set at 6-0, giving the Rams a 2-1 lead in matches.

"I just cleared my mind in the second set," she said. "it was like a new day. I had to have positive thinking and keep making shots.I tried to make her move her around the entire court and just keep making shots."

Kristina Stevanovic and Karissa Pallagi fought long and hard, but eventually Charger teammates Christine Ly and Amritpal Kaur emerged with a three-set 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, No. 1 doubles triumph to force the decider in match No. 5.

Mt. Rainier head coach Tim Lee gave his feelings while recalling when Mt. Rainier became 4A on the way to this point in time.

"This is exciting," Lee said. "Four years ago, they just tromped us. It's taken a couple of years to catch up to them. For the post season, the players that have been together the longest deserve to play together. In league you have to flip (line ups) to look for an edge."

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