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Luat Le wins 2A boys singles title for Interlake | 2A, 3A, 4A Boys and Girls Tennis
Calling him "resilient" would not do Luat Le justice.
After a decisive 6-1, 6-0 win in the opening round, Le came back for the quarterfinals to find Riley Newman of South Whidbey and his back-to-back state final match appearances, including the 2009 state title, waiting for him.
"I knew that I had to play my best to beat him [Newman]," Le said. He did exactly that, dispatching of Newman in straight sets, 7-6, 6-3. But it wasn't as simple as the score makes it sound, especially considering what happened in 2010.
Leading Newman 5-2 in the state tournament last season, Le was unable to close out the match, eventually falling to Newman before working through the consolation bracket to a third place state finish.
The scenario looked to be repeating itself in their match this year before Le gathered himself just in the nick-of-time.
After seeing his 5-2 advantage whittled and then surpassed by Newman again, Le rallied to win the set 7-6 before finishing the job in the second set to move past Newman into the semi-finals.
But the adversity was far from over.
Already down a set and a point away from elimination to North Kitsap's Zach Fohn in the next round, Le could have folded his tent. Fohn had already downed consecutive opponents without losing a set in reaching the semis and was now holding serve against the Interlake sophomore with a 5-3 advantage and the match on the line.
"At that point, I just wanted to take it one point at a time," Le said, adding that his mental approach was to "keep grinding" and never let the thought of a loss enter his frame of mind.
All of the positivity eventually paid off, as Le broke Fohn's serve at 5-3 en route to a stunning come-from-behind win that sent him to the 2A boys singles finals against Joe Kwiatkowski from Lindbergh.
"He's just crafty," Interlake coach Matthew Perlman said, also calling Le "a very smart and saavy player".
In the finals, Le faced a familiar foe in Joe Kwiatkowski, whom he estimated he has played nearly a dozen times over the years, including a Kwiatkowski victory in the district finals only a week before state.
Le used that familiarity to his advantage, saying he knew "exactly what he [Kwiatkowski] would play like," and winning the final in three sets to take the state championship back to Interlake.
"I have to give everything I've got," Le said of his approach in the final match. "I know I want to come out as a champion."
Impressed by not only his physical skills but also his mental makeup and demeanor in the face of defeat, Perlman was in awe of his sophomore throughout the tournament.
"Luat has got the best mental game of anyone I've ever coached," said Perlman. "It couldn't happen to a nicer kid."
While Le was busy winning the Saints an individual title, several of his teammates were also proving the Saints would be a force in 2011.
Chelsea Bucklin and Amy Yasutake reached the semi-finals of the girls doubles tournament before dropping a pair of three-set matches to finish in sixth place.
Alysha Dhami did not lose a set to either of her first two opponents, but was pushed to the consolation bracket in the semi-finals before rebounding for a 6-1, 6-1 win in the third-place match.
Maggie Locke and Isabelle Long also competed in the girls singles tournament and helped the Saints to a team scoring title on the girls side.
Kirk Morrison and Joe Motto navigated their way to the semi-finals before eventually ending the tournament in sixth place in the boys doubles bracket for Interlake.
Lui wins title for Forest Ridge
Michelle Lui of Forest Ridge won the 1B/2B/1A girls singles tournament in dominating fashion. Lui defeated all four of her opponents in straight sets and dropped only three games in four matches en route to the championship. Forest Ridge tied for second-place in the team scoring behind Lui's performance.
Zach Kosanke of Bellevue reached the semi-finals before falling to Jordan Smith of Mercer Island in straight sets and then Luke Thompson of Hanford in the third-place match.
Andrew Nguyen and Benny Tran fought their way into the semi-finals of the 3A boys doubles bracket with a pair of three-set matches before being defeated in the semi-finals and then third-place match to end the tournament in sixth-place for the Sammamish Totems.
Angela Chen reached the semi-finals with a pair of decisive wins before falling to Megan Lalone of Stanwood in the semi-finals. Chen defeated Jelena Vidovic of Union in the third-place match. Vidovic defeated Chen's teammate Amie Vo in the opening round. Vo won two of her next three matches to finish in eighth in the 4A girls singles bracket.
Alec Tsutsumoto and Andrew Choi lost both of their matches in the 4A boys doubles tournament for Newport.