BELLINGHAM - Sehome coach Bonna Giller is all about what she calls "spreading the love for tennis."
Consider her entire boys' team infatuated with the sport, perhaps no one more than senior Andrew Bruce.
Bruce and new partner Jason Newell - like Bruce a senior with four years in the program - provided one of the highlights at No. 1 doubles as the Mariners (2-0 Northwest Conference) swept every set in a 7-0 victory over visiting Bellingham (1-1) on Monday, Sept. 10.
"Sehome is just an excellent team," said Bellingham coach Steve Chronister, who has produced numerous boys' and girls' champions himself. "They really took it to us. We're playing pretty well (for the early season), but Sehome is just too good."
The Mariners lost only 17 games all told in one of their most dominating showings ever against their city rival while erasing memories of 2011 league champion Bellingham's 4-3 victory.
Speaking of erasing memories, Bruce is intent on rubbing out the frustration he felt on the sideline as a Class 2A state alternate last season.
Bruce performed in the doubles victory with the style and competitiveness of the small-college doubles player he would like to become. Also a varsity soccer regular, four years ago he had no idea tennis would emerge as his sport of choice for college.
"I started tennis because I felt it was a good sport for the offseason," he said. "Now I know it's a great sport for life."
He feels Newell will help him get to state next spring. They showed how well their skills mesh as they beat a good No. 1 Bellingham team of juniors Chad Cheldelin and Sam Ferguson 6-1, 6-1.
"Jason is real good at the net," said Bruce, who is off to a 3-0 start with Newell.
"And Andrew has real good strokes," said Newell, who has made great strides since beginning to play in 2009. "The first time I ever picked up a racquet was at the end of eighth grade. I'm very happy to be playing No. 1 with him."
Staying No. 1 on a team with Sehome's doubles and singles depth will be a challenge.
Sehome's No. 2 doubles team, Ben Carroll and Sam Humphreys, would be No. 1 at some schools, as they showed while gutting out a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) win over sophomores Connor Thompson and Nate Pearsall. Sehome freshmen Max Shmotolohka and Reece Gilbert, the No. 3 doubles team, swept Emile Diffley and Chris Nakatani 6-1, 6-0.
"We have 16 players on the varsity, so everyone has to continue to play well to maintain their spots," Giller said. "Our kids really came to play tennis today. Top to bottom, everyone did their part. They played some great tennis."
Sehome's No. 1 singles player, two-time state medal winner Avery West, a junior with great variety in his game, shut out state meet doubles medalist E.J. Troutman 6-0, 6-0.
"Everyone knows Avery is crazy good," said Troutman, who was third at state last year with graduated Reed Welch. "This was the first time I've played Avery in a school match. I saw him play at state, and he's become a harder hitter. He hits the ball deep well and he pounces on you whenever he can. I tried to come up (to the net) a couple of times, and he smoked me down the line."
Troutman said he'll play doubles with Auden Schilder (who was out of town) most of the season.
"I don't want to be serving too much (in singles) because I've had some shoulder pain. But I felt pretty good today," Troutman said.
In the No. 2 singles match, state meet veteran Nick Smith, a Sehome senior, beat Bellingham senior Shane Miller 6-3, 6-2. Sehome freshman Brady Anderson won at No. 3 over sophomore Charlie Carmichael 6-0, 6-1, and Mariners senior Johan Lahud-Zahner prevailed at No. 4 over freshman Austin Shenton 6-0, 6-0.
"I like having someone who's better than me on our team," Smith said of West. "Avery is definitely making me better."
Smith (4-0 overall), who has been playing tennis since third grade, said he's especially encouraged by his mental maturity.
"My mental game has definitely improved," Smith said. "I made unforced errors today, but I stayed with it the whole way and I didn't hit any stupid shots."
Like Smith, Bruce especially admired how West was so consistent that he didn't lose a game to Troutman, who is one of the league's premier performers.
"Avery definitely brings the best out in people," Bruce said.
SEHOME 7, BELLINGHAM 0
Singles -- Avery West d. E.J. Troutman 6-0, 6-0; Nick Smith d. Shane Miller 6-3, 6-2; Brady Anderson d. Charlie Carmichael 6-0, 6-1; Johan Lahud-Zahner d. Austin Shenton 6-0, 6-0.
Doubles -- Andrew Bruce/Jason Newell d. Chad Cheldelin/Sam Ferguson 6-1, 6-1; Ben Carroll/Sam Humphreys d. Connor Thompson/Nate Pearsall 6-2, 7-6 (7-5); Max Scmotolohka/Reece Gilbert d. Emile Diffley/Chris Nakatani