South Tahoe, Incline shine at girls’ northern region tennis tourney; Tong wins title
High drama, thrilling finishes and upsets were all part of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 3A Northern Region Girls’ Tennis Championships.
When the dust settled last weekend, Oct. 12-13, at the Tahoe Donner Tennis Club in Truckee, Incline and South Tahoe high schools had claimed six of the eight state qualifying berths, including Highlander Kate Tong who won the singles title.
Tong finished the season undefeated, earned the number one seed and backed it up with another exciting victory over South Tahoe’s best, Kayla Mason, in the championship match.
Tong jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the battle of juniors before Mason came storming back to take the first set 6-4. It was the first set Tong has surrendered the entire season and was the first set Mason won against her North Shore rival in six matches dating back to last season.
“Kayla getting that first set just shows that she can beat Kate,” said Vikings head coach Tracey Samoluk. “It takes hard work, determination and focus to improve and Kayla has all of that.”
Tong then switched her style, played more aggressive and roared back to win the second and third sets 6-1, 6-2.
“Kate became very determined and I could see her change up her game plan,” said Incline head coach Beth Gebhardt. “She started hitting with more pace and more movement. Kayla has great footwork and it was a great match, but Kate was able to win the second and third sets. They both served and played well. It was a fun match to watch.”
Tong also won two really close regular season matches over Mason 7-5, and then a couple weeks later they went into an epic tiebreaker where Tong prevailed 6-6 (10-8). Mason gave Tong another tough match last year in the northern region tournament before losing 7-6(5), 6-2.
Tong and Mason were named Tuesday to the 2018 Class 3A All-Region first team and Tong was also named singles player of the year.
Vikings sophomore Sierra Dahl came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed, but earned third place to qualify for state. Incline sophomore Millie Jenkins grabbed fourth, the final state-qualifying berth.
The two played an interesting third-place match. Jenkins dominated Dahl in the first set 6-0. But Dahl bounced back to win the second set 6-1 and edged Jenkins 6-4 in the third.
“It was a tough three-set match and Sierra was a backboard,” Gebhardt said. “Millie has beautiful technique but Sierra’s style proved to be too tough that day.”
Dahl and Jenkins were awarded second team All-Region.
The doubles tournament provided the biggest upsets with unseeded Vikings Alyx Carlson and Nicole Morgan knocking out a couple of seeded teams, including their teammates, to earn fourth place and qualify for state.
Carlson and Morgan eliminated the seventh seed from North Tahoe 6-0, 6-0 in the first round and then stunned teammates No. 2 Riana Bindel and Lauren Schwartz in the quarterfinals 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
“They battled it out in that third set, it was so close,” Samoluk said. “I wanted both teams to win of course. But I’m so proud of all the girls.”
The pair lost to the eventual champions from Churchill County in the semifinals and also lost a close, nail-biting, three-set third-place match to Incline’s Carolyn Eppolito and Melanie Racich 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (5).
Eppolito and Racich entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed. They knocked out South Tahoe’s Soleil Weed and Lauren Rosmos 6-4, 6-3 in the first round and won a three–set thriller 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 to reach the semifinals and punch their ticket to state.
“Carolyn and Lily are extremely are excited to make state,” Gebhardt said. “They too played a tough three-set match against South Tahoe.”