BELLINGHAM - There are always surprises in tennis.
Some of them are pleasant surprises, such as a Northwest Conference boys' tennis regular season that went virtually uninterrupted by rainouts.
Some of them are unexpected surprises, such as the window of morning sunshine that allowed the Class 2A Northwest District Boys' Tennis Tournament to nearly complete the first round and even get in a few second-round matches on Monday, Oct. 15, at Sehome High School and Western Washington University.
"I live a good life," joked tournament director Colin Cushman when asked how he dialed up the fair skies on a day that was forecast for rain throughout.
And then there are the surprises that sting just a little bit - at least at first.
Sehome's Andrew Bruce got one of those a couple of weeks ago, when coach Bonna Giller informed him that she was going to mix up the Mariners' doubles teams, dropping him from a No. 1 tandem with Jason Newell to a No. 3 pairing with Ben Carroll.
"At first, I was a little upset," Bruce admitted. "To go from No. 1 doubles to No. 3, you kind of feel like that's a step back. But then I got to looking at it, and I realized that this way we now have our three best pairings. ... I accepted that this was the way it was going to be, and Ben and I got in a few sets, and it felt pretty good."
Bruce said he and his new teammate even won a few sets against Newell and his new partner, Johan Lahud-Zahner, in practice.
"A few weeks ago, I really looked at things and started thinking, 'What can I do with our doubles to put together teams that have the best chance of scoring us points (in the district tournament),'" Giller said. "Jason and Jo Jo seemed to be perfect together, and when we brought Nick (Smith) and Brady (Anderson) in from singles, they seemed like a great match. And the more I looked at, I got to thinking Ben and Andrew would be a good match as our third team. I think I've created quite a mix for all three teams."
Giller said she was hoping to match Carroll's aggressiveness at the net with Bruce's strong baseline play, which she said came from his singles background.
"It's great playing with Ben," Bruce said. "He's got a real nice volley and he's good at the net. ... I think Ben's aggressiveness at the net and my ground strokes really work well together."
The pairing certainly looked well once the district tournament was able to get underway on Monday, as Bruce and Carroll grabbed a 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory over Bellingham's Sam Ferguson and Connor Thompson in the first round and were tied 4-4 in the first set with Lynden's Toby Dalla Santa and Lucas Reardon when rain halted play in the second round.
"I saw signs that they are starting to mesh together and play as a team," Giller said of Bruce's and Carroll's first-round match. "The first set, I think both teams were kind of feeling each other out a little bit. I think our guys, neither of them knew which one of them was going to be the alpha dog. Then in the second set, I saw them get together and say, 'I'll call this and you call that, and we'll make it work.' I saw them starting to communicate much better and play as a team."
No doubt, there was bound to be a learning curve for the new duo, which played only two regular-season matches together before Monday.
"Jo Jo was my last partner, and he would get mad at himself," said Carroll, who spent most of the season at No. 2 doubles with Lahud-Zahner before the switch. "Andrew doesn't do that. We just had to figure each other out and how to play with each other."
Now that they've done that, Giller said she can see the duo continue to succeed during the postseason, as the Mariners seek their eighth straight district team title.
"It's almost like we have two singles players on the double court," Giller said. "Once they learn how to work with each other, which I think they're starting to do, I think they can be a pretty strong team."
Of course, there are quite a few strong teams in the district doubles draw, as the tournament is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, Oct. 16, if the courts are dry enough.
Besides Carroll and Bruce, other Whatcom County first-round winners in doubles on Monday were Bellingham's Nate Pearsall and Auden Schilder, Lynden's Dalla Santa and Reardon and Trevor Dalla Santa and Brock Benner and Squalicum's Aaron Morris and Zach Hart
First-round singles winners included Bellingham's Shane Miller, Charlie Carmichael and Brad Dale, Lynden's Grant Wolffis, Sehome's Max Shmotolokha and Arie Knops and Squalicum's Carter Thulin, James Tan and Avery Wolfe. Sehome's Avery West, who received a first-round bye as the top singles seed, was the only player to finish off his second-round match and secure a spot in the quarterfinals with his 6-0, 6-0 second-round win over Thulin.
Once the first and second rounds are complete, the tournament shifts to a double-elimination format. Though state berths won't be released until the spring, it's expected the district will get either two or three bids for each the singles and doubles draw.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
CLASS 2A NORTHWEST DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
At Sehome and Western Washington University
Carter Thulin (Squalicum) def. Bryan Groves (Lynden) 6-3, 2-6, 6-3; Grant Wolffis (Lynden) def. Kaleb Wigen (Anacortes) 6-2, 7-6 (4); James Tan (Squalicum) def. Michael Chen (Sammamish) default; Fergy Lu (Lake Washington) def. Charlie Rutherford (Sedro-Woolley) 6-0, 6-1; Nick Edson (Burlington-Edison) def. Drake Likkel (Lynden) 6-1, 6-2; Avery Wolfe (Squalicum) def. Noah Sayer (Burlington-Edison) 7-5, 6-4; Shane Miller (Bellingham) def. Mark So (Sammamish) 6-1, 6-2; Max Shmotolokha (Sehome) def. Matt Irving (Anacortes) 7-6 (1), 2-6, 6-3; Arie Knops (Sehome) def. Michael Moser (Sedro-Woolley) 7-6(4), 6-4; vs. Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) def. Tristan Cullop (Lake Washington) 6-4, 6-4; Brad Dale (Bellingham) def. Ray Uzunov (Sedro-Woolley) 6-3, 6-2.
Avery West (Sehome) def.. Carter Thulin (Squalicum) 6-0, 6-0; Grant Wolffis (Lynden) vs. Michael James Tan (Squalicum) susp.; Nick Granberg (Burlington-Edison) vs. Fergy Lu (Lake Washington) susp.; Nick Edson (Burlington-Edison) vs. Jared Wigen (Anacortes) susp.; Ethan Romney (Sammamish) susp. Avery Wolfe (Squalicum); Shane Miller (Bellingham) vs. Max Shmotolokha (Sehome) susp.; Arie Knops (Sehome) vs. Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) susp.; Brad Dale (Bellingham) vs. Arash Hafizi (Lake Washington) ppd.
Jordan Small/Miles Paton (Burlington-Edison) def. Luke Hudson/Freddy Lienhard (Sedro-Woolley) 6-1, 4-6, 7-6; Ben Carroll/Andrew Bruce (Sehome) def. Sam Ferguson/Connor Thompson (Bellingham) 7-6 (2), 6-3; Toby Dalla Santa/Lucas Reardon (Lynden) def. Kevin Eubanks/Kevin Kay (Burlington-Edison) 6-1, 6-0; Colby Harris/Koshi Fugii (Lake Washington) def. Neems Rostami/Michael Chin (Sammamish) 6-2, 6-7, 6-2; Aaron Morris/Zach Hart (Squalicum) def. Nick Doorn/Ryne Schrader (Sedro-Woolley) 6-0, 6-1; Hector Brandt/Nathan Weide (Sedro-Woolley) def. Alec Phillips/Garrett Manion (Anacortes) 6-4, 6-3; Alvin Tran/Anthony Kao (Sammamish) def. Kevin Xue/Jared Douglas (Anacortes) 6-2, 6-1; Drew Segren/Kevin Smiley (Squalicum) vs. Colton Saben/Jake Kamps (Burlington-Edison) susp.; Nate Pearsall/Auden Schilder (Bellingham) def. Eli Gallo/Jay Kiesser (Anacortes) 7-6, 6-1; Tyler Hobak/Carter Nickelson (Squalicum) vs. Jay Roper/Mikal Olson (Lynden), susp.; Trevor Dalla Santa/ Brock Benner (Lynden) def. Jason Habib/Jeffery Sweet (Sammamish) 6-0, 6-2.
Connor Ross/Jeremy Sacks (Lake Washington) vs. Jordan Small/ Miles Paton (Burlington-Edison) susp.; Ben Carroll/Andrew Bruce (Sehome) vs. Toby Dalla Santa/Lucas Reardon (Lynden) susp. Jason Newell/Johan Lahud-Zahner (Sehome) vs. Colby Harris/Koshi Fugii (Lake Washington); Aaron Morris/Zach Hart (Squalicum) vs. Tristan Jimenez/Connor Stumpf (Lake Washington) ppd.; Nick Smith/Brady Anderson (Sehome) vs. Hector Brandt/Nathan Weide (Sedro-Woolley) ppd.; Alvin Tran/Anthony Kao (Sammamish) vs. Drew Segren/Kevin Smiley (Squalicum)/Colton Saben/Jake Kamps (Burlington-Edison) winner ppd.; Nate Pearsall/Logan Schilder (Bellingham) vs. Tyler Hobak/Carter Nickelson (Squalicum)/Jay Roper/Mikal Olson (Lynden) winner ppd.; Trevor Dalla Santa/ Brock Benner (Lynden) vs. E.J. Troutman/Auden Schilder (Bellingham) ppd.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.