SEATTLE - Senior standout Becca Wilson made Squalicum tennis history by winning her third state doubles medal, yet her experience at the Class 2A State Girls' Championships was remarkably different from that of senior partner Claire Krause.
Wilson expressed gratitude for "having so much fun all season," but she couldn't help but feel her first sting of defeat this year after hoping to claim her first state championship. Meanwhile, Krause, who tried four other Storm sports before taking up tennis for the first time last season, "was stoked" to earn the second-place medal - a truly noteworthy accomplishment for her lack of experience.
"Becca and Claire were fantastic. It was just so close. It was just a few things here and there," Storm coach Cindy O'Brien said of Wilson and Krause, who gave it everything they had in a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) loss to Clarkson's K.C. McConnell and Ashley Meyers in the title match on Saturday, May 26, at University of Washington's Nordstrom Tennis Center. "I am so proud of Becca and Claire. I knew they could (make it to the finals)."
Meanwhile, Bellingham coach Steve Chronister expressed the same intense pride in junior Bella Hoyos, who bounced back from a loss to the overwhelming tourney favorite in the semifinals to take the third-place medal with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Julie Hansen of Black Hills.
Hoyos (21-3) played with far more intensity and skill than the score indicated in her 6-1, 6-0 loss in the semis to Tracy Landram, of Klahowya. Landram a 5-foot-10 dynamo who has signed to play for Division I Air Force, won her third consecutive state title with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Burlington-Edison junior Anna Lefebvre.
Wilson and Krause (20-1) swept Othello's Jocelyn Cantu and Yanitta Cantu 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals and came tantalizing close to the title Wilson sought so hard with her third senior doubles partner in as many seasons, following a second place as a sophomore and fifth place last year.
"I sure didn't want to finish second again, but I am happy we made it to the finals," said Wilson, like Krause about 5-foot-3 and a showcase of ever-moving energy. Wilson and Krause made one nifty shot after another, but so did their opponents from Clarkston.
The first set was tied 3-3 before McConnell and Meyers swept the last three games. A match-point shot that fell just over the net epitomized how little luck Wilson and Krause had.
In the second set, the Clarkston duo took a 2-0 lead, but Wilson and Krause won the next three games. From that point on, the match was as close as could be; Meyers' un-returnable winner to an obscure mid-court location typified the Clarkston pair's skill.
Wilson and Krause fought off defeat and pulled into a 6-6 tie, but Clarkston won the tiebreaker 7-3.
"They just kept getting one more shot," Wilson said of the relentless Clarkston pair, who were never more than a point ahead except during their five consecutive game victories at mid-match - three in the first game and two in the second.
"I can see why it's tough for Becca to finish second, but I'm excited that we got (as far as) second," said Krause, referring to three consecutive victories at state and four at district.
When Wilson took second in state doubles as a sophomore, Krause was on the track and field team. Last season, Krause turned the spring season into a crash course in tennis.
"I enjoyed track, but now tennis is my favorite sport," Krause said with a grin, in between the two matches Saturday and perhaps wishing she could return for another season with Wilson since they worked so well together.
"I thought Claire would be a really good partner for Becca," said O'Brien. "Claire has a strong forehand and Becca has such a good backhand."
Hoyos, who shared the doubles title as a freshman and sophomore at Bellingham, had perhaps the largest gallery of any semifinalist at state - well over three dozen enthusiastic family members, teammates and friends. They gave her a memorable ovation when she rallied to take third place.
"Bella put her name out there as a serious contender for a state title," said Bellingham coach Steve Chronister, who hopes Hoyos next season can become the school's first singles champion - girls or boys - since the school re-opened in 2000.
Landram, a most imposing power player, agreed with Chronister.
"Bella definitely has a shot at winning here next year," Landram said. "And she is such a good sport. I just want to say how good a person she is. Last year the girl I beat in the finals wouldn't shake my hand, but Bella is so gracious. It's a pleasure to play her."
Chronister said Hoyos came out with fire in her eyes while winning the first game against Landram, who soon became physically overpowering for the 5-foot-41/2 Bellingham junior, even though Hoyos refused to concede a thing.
"Tracy hits harder, but Bella really pushed her," Chronister said. "I'm really pleased with Bella's effort. Everybody who watched that semifinal recognized the quality of the match. I told Bella how proud I am of her. It was a courageous effort. This was very good experience for her."
Hoyos rebounded handsomely with one of her best matches of the season to beat Hansen for third place.
"I don't think it was that hard to come back (from her loss to Landram)," Hoyos said. "I knew I had a tough draw (for the semifinals). It didn't shake me up (to lose). I respect Tracy so much. She's very gracious and has such amazing skills."
Hoyos had no trouble explaining why she dominated the third-place match.
"My serves," she said. "They were not only powerful, but very consistent. I practice all the time and now I'm also coaching at the Bellingham Tennis Club."
"I do believe I have a shot at the title next year," Hoyos said. "I'd like to play college tennis and I want to show I can."
Chronister summed up the day well: "I'm just glad Bella is on our team."