Tennis can be an individualistic sport, but the Issaquah boys tennis team was focused on succeeding as a team.
“From top to bottom, every single one of them, really loved to be around each other,” first-year head coach Nico Hakes said. “They support each other and they were each other’s biggest advocates.”
The Eagles finished their regular season with a perfect 9-0 record in 4A KingCo league play and 10-2 overall. During the league championships on Oct. 23-26, the doubles team of Ryan Cho and Luke Sarausad won the tournament without dropping a single set in its four matches.
“It was amazing to see them succeed in such a good way,” Hakes said. “They had to play some really tough competition, but they played really well together. They were mentally strong. I’m really excited to see what they can do come May.”
Hakes said the performance of Cho and Sarausad was no surprise because they’ve played strong all year.
The Eagles also took second place in the doubles tournament with Hampus Holmgren and Eric Tseng. The two doubles teams will compete at the 4A state championships on May 29-30 at Columbia Basin Racquet Club in Richland. Hakes said he was very happy with their performance at the league tournament.
“We played really well,” Hakes said. “We had some really tough draws but my team was amazing. They support each other and they all played really well.”
The Eagles were no stranger to tough opponents after starting the season against Bellevue (8-0) and Mercer Island (8-1), two perennial 3A state championship contenders. Even though Issaquah lost both matches, Hakes said they learned a lot.
Issaquah opened league play against another talented team, the Newport Knights (9-1). The Eagles managed to win the meet, 4-3, giving them plenty of momentum as they continued through league play.
In their final match of the regular season, the Eagles faced their rival, the Skyline Spartans (8-3). Issaquah rallied to sweep the Spartans, 7-0, after the Eagles fell behind after the first set in four of their first six matches.
“That was such a satisfying feeling for my seniors, they really earned it,” Hakes said. “It was awesome to see that, and I think that momentum carried over into the tournament.”
Hakes said it will be tough to lose his three seniors, Erik Tseng, Kellen Brown and Shashank Rao.
“Everyone on my team was fantastic,” Hakes said. “The freshmen that came on the team brought new energy. I feel really lucky because they were so coachable, and they wanted to learn. They were ready to do whatever they needed to not only win, but also to help the team win.”
Hakes said the self-sacrifice on the team played a large role in its success. If he needed someone to play doubles when they preferred singles, it was never a problem because they all wanted to do what was best for the team.
In his first year as the tennis coach a teacher at Issaquah High School, Hakes said there have been plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.
“They work so hard and they really fought,” Hakes said. “I’m so proud of them because of the way they conducted themselves, the way they learned from their mistakes and the way they fought for each other. Honestly, that’s all a coach can ask for, they never, ever gave up and were always looking to improve.”