Eagles net success this season

The Federal Way girls tennis team is having one of its best seasons ever, starting out with a 6-0 record that has put the Eagles in first place in the South Puget Sound League, South Division.

It’s especially satisfying for the Eagles considering last season’s record of 3-11.

“It’s been a good year so far. I couldn’t be happier,” said Federal Way’s third-year coach, Caroline Meines. “It’s a selfless group who want to win as a team. We have beat the teams we’ve beat so far because we’re deep.”

If the ball keeps bouncing their way, the Eagles could win the first girls SPSL tennis championship for the school.

The dramatic turnaround is largely attributable to the consistent play of junior Danielle Yellam and the influx of new talent in foreign exchange student Clara Sacristan from Spain and sophomore Kristen Yates. The Eagles also have a group of solid players all the way through the lineup.

“Federal Way has a combination of depth and talent,” said Jefferson coach Andrew Buchan. “They have the best threesome in the league. Emerald Ridge has Katie Owens and Puyallup has Michelle Sekyra. Decatur has two good players. But Federal Way has three. Then after that, a bunch of girls who are just doing the job.”

While Emerald Ridge’s Owens and Puyallup’s Sekyra are two of the best players in the state, Federal Way is succeeding because of its entire team.

“We have five players who were on varsity last year, but I attribute (the turnaround) to the players who filled in for the players we lost,” Meines said. “Kristen and Clara came in and right there are our No. 2 and No. 3 players. It’s nice having players who can step in and contribute.”

Sacristan is 3-0 this season at No. 1 singles.

“She has a lot of experience,” Meines said. “She has an all-around game and covers the court real well. She’s playing in a different country on a different surface and a different style, so she’s learning. She wants to see how she measures up against Owns and Sekyra. Now that Debbie (Raghubeer) is focusing on doubles, we’ll see how she compares.”

Yates, who plays both singles and doubles, hasn’t lost a match this season, either.

“Kristen is a good singles player who can hold her own at sub-districts,” Meines said.

Although it’s her first year of playing high school tennis, Yates has experience playing during the summer.

“(High school) is more fun, more of a team atmosphere,” Yates said. “I’m enjoying it. There’s a little bit of pressure because we haven’t won the league title before, but we don’t have the high expectations to live up to.”

At No. 2 singles is Yellam, who is out to a 5-0 record.

“She can get to any ball,” Meines said. “She doesn’t make silly mistakes. She can make adjustments depending on what her opponent is doing and can stay focused to play out the entire match.”

Raghubeer, a senior, is playing doubles with Tara Byrne after starting out by playing singles the first part of the season.

“She’s a good singles player, but I think she realizes we have some really tough singles players in our league and in our districts. She and Tara team up real well. They’re both seniors, they’re both in running start, they get along well,” Meines said.

Federal Way also has a solid group of players pushing the varsity players.

“Our No. 9 through 15 players all know who to play,” Meines said. “They’re a competitive group fighting for spots.”

Federal Way doesn’t have any returning players with district experience, but the Eagles are expected to continue their success in the post season.

“I expect they’ll compete well,” Meines said. “For a lot of seniors, when it’s your last chance playing high school tennis, you play at a little different level. This is a level-headed, very hard-working group. I see them as being competitors. I think they have that in them.”

Federal Way still has a match against Rogers, which has one loss. The two teams only meet once this season, and the outcome could determine the SPSL South champion.

“We want to win the league,” Meines said. “It’s not unattainable — it’s something we can do. Our big challenge will be Rogers. And Decatur has gotten better as the season has progressed. So we still have a few challenges left. It’s still open to who can continue improving through the entire season.”

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