Issaquah Boys’ Tennis Tough Loss to Newport on Senior Night

Andrew Kim, Staff Writer

On the night of the final match of the regular season, Issaquah’s Varsity Boys’ Tennis team fell to Newport with an overall score of 1-6. Facing the considered number one team in the state, Issy put up a competitive fight even when their odds looked bleak.

Emotions were running high on both teams, and in the most exciting match between Issaquah’s best doubles team, with seniors Luke Sarausad and Jake Salzco versus one of Newport’s top teams, Sarausad hit tough shots in overtime to take the first set 7-6. In the second set, Sarausad and Salzco cruised to an easy 6-1 win, figuring out Newport’s weaknesses. The game remained competitive all the way to the last match with freshman Jason Auffant and Sophomore Gage Ulitsch continuing to battle even though not many people were watching.

Battling through soreness in his ankle, senior Eric Tao fought hard in his singles match against a tough Newport opponent. Although the match ended with a disappointing 3-6 and 4-6 loss, Eric said that his game was “really good and felt nearly the best all season.”

Tao seems to embody the team’s season with Coach Nico Hakes describing it as having many “ups and downs with lots of injuries, but the seniors were instrumental in creating a good culture and coming back stronger.” Hakes adds, “It was a battle. Obviously, Newport is the top in the state, so we just kept fighting an uphill battle.”  Sophomore Ryan Tykodi stated his opinion on the season stating how it was a “heartfelt season with the team being very in sync and everyone being connected. It was disappointing with the lack of wins and felt very short because of the cancellations.” With yesterday being Senior Night and the boys saying goodbye to five team leaders, junior Spencer Kang says that “next season will be tough without the seniors” but Tykodi and others expressed their optimism for the next season and excitement for the upcoming freshman and others coming up from JV tennis.

Overall, though it was a tough and disappointing loss on Senior Night, the team’s eyes are now on KingCo, Districts, and State with Sarausad having a chance at becoming the state champion. Throughout his doubles match against Newport, a standing-out feature of his game was his poise and ability to support and bounce back from tough rallies. Auffant exhibited the same features with his doubles partner Ulitsch while competing in the final match with the first set going into overtime. With his energy exhibited through yelling after points and the reassuring clap with Ulitsch after ugly points, Auffant is an exciting up-and-coming tennis player who shows good tennis and team skills. Although Auffant and Ulitsch lost, their spirit makes Issaquah an exciting team to watch in the next season. Even with a loss dominated by Newport, this Issaquah team has the talent and resiliency to go far in the playoffs this year and next season.