BELLINGHAM - Nobody said growing up is easy - not even growing is easy.
Sehome junior singles tennis player Avery West had to battle that most of last year, as he said he sprouted about 5 inches in the past 18 months.
"When you go through that, it can be really hard," West said. "I remember it being very painful, especially in my legs. ... It threw off the timing in my game, too. It seemed like I was always getting off balance. I had to remind myself to slow things down and not play the game so fast and get out of control."
But now West's growth spurt seems to be behind him, he's making the most of the benefits his 6-foot-1 frame give him.
"Now I'm able to hit down on the ball a lot more," West said. "It's really changed the game for me. Before, I was hitting up, but now I can do a whole lot more with the ball and I have more power."
That's spelled trouble for West's opponents in the first two rounds of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament.
West, who received a first-round bye as the top seed into the singles draw, was the only player to close out a second-round match on Monday, Oct. 15, in part because he won so fast by a 6-0, 6-0 count.
He followed that up Tuesday, Oct. 16, with another 6-0, 6-0 quarterfinal win, this one coming over Squalicum's James Tan.
"I think I've really played well in both matches," West said. "I've watched both my opponents, so I knew what to expect, and I think I've been able to use what I've learned. ... The mental aspect of my game has definitely come along this year."
Count that as a another benefit to growing up.
West's mental focus has definitely been tested this season, as he improved to 18-0 with Tuesday's win and has rarely been tested. So far West has not dropped a set.
He's lost only 10 games so far this year - more than one game in the same match only three times. That means a lot of 0 and 0 wins - 13 of them, and counting.
"My goal coming in to the district tournament was to not drop a game," West said. "I know it's not going to be easy. I've got two really tough matches ahead of me."
The first will be a semifinal showdown with Anacortes' Jared Wigen, whom West twice beat by - you guessed it - 6-0, 6-0 scores on Sept. 21 and Oct. 9.
The secret to West's success - beyond the extra 5 inches of height, of course - is his approach to the game.
"He's always been a very wise young man," Sehome coach Bonna Giller said. "I think his game has evolved as he has, but he's always been very focused."
That focus even carries over to practice, where Giller said West sets a good example for a trio of talented Mariner freshmen in the starting lineup - Brady Anderson, Max Shmotolokha and Reece Gilbert.
"Avery's got a great work ethic when he's on the court," Giller said. "It doesn't matter whether it's in a match or in practice, he doesn't mess around. I think it's very good exposure for those young guys to see that work ethic. ... I know the three of them look up to Avery, not just because of his skills, but his work ethic. They see what it takes to be a good tennis player."
The district tournament will resume at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Sehome High with the singles and doubles semifinals. The championship matches will follow in the afternoon. The first two rounds of the consolation brackets also will be played Wednesday, with the tournament scheduled to wrap up Thursday, Oct. 18, with the consolation championship and second-place matches.
Sammamish's Ethan Romney and Lake Washington's Arash Hafizi will meet in the other singles semifinal, as the top four seeds all advanced in both draws.
Whatcom County players still alive in the singles consolation bracket are Tan, Shmotolokha and Bellingham's Charlie Carmichael.
In the doubles draw, E.J. Troutman and Auden Schilder won an all-Bellingham quarterfinal against Nate Pearsall and Logan Schilder 6-0, 7-5 to advance to the semis.
They'll face Sehome's Nick Smith and Anderson, who beat Sammamish's 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
The other semifinal will feature an all-Lake Washington match between Connor Ross and Jeremy Sacks and Tristan Jimenez and Connor Stumpf.
Along with Pearsall and Logan Schilder, and Sehome's doubles tandems of Jason Newell and Johan Lahud-Zahner and Ben Carroll and Andrew Bruce are still alive in the consolation bracket.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
CLASS 2A NORTHWEST DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
At Sehome and Western Washington University
James Tan (Squalicum) def. Grant Wolffis (Lynden) 1-6, 7-5, 6-2; Fergy Lu (Lake Washington) def. Nick Granberg (Burlington-Edison) 4-6, 7-5, 6-1; Jared Wigen (Anacortes) def. Nick Edson (Burlington-Edison) 6-0, 6-1; Ethan Romney (Sammamish) def. Avery Wolfe (Squalicum) 6-0, 6-0; Max Shmotolokha (Sehome) def. Shane Miller (Bellingham) 7-6 (4), 6-2; Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) def. Arie Knops (Sehome) 6-4, 6-4; Arash Hafizi (Lake Washington) def. Brad Dale (Bellingham) 6-2, 6-0.
Avery West (Sehome) def. James Tan (Squalicum) 6-0, 6-0; Jared Wigen (Anacortes) def. Fergy Lu (Lake Washington) 6-1, 6-2; Ethan Romney (Sammamish) def. Max Shmotolokha (Sehome) 6-0, 6-1; Arash Hafizi (Lake Washington) def. Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) 6-1, 6-0.
Colton Saben/Jake Kamps (Burlington-Edison) def, Drew Segren/Kevin Smiley (Squalicum) 7-6, 7-6 (4); Tyler Hobak/Carter Nickelson (Squalicum) def. Jay Roper/Mikal Olson (Lynden) 6-3, 6-3.
Connor Ross/Jeremy Sacks (Lake Washington) def. Jordan Small/ Miles Paton (Burlington-Edison) 6-3, 6-2; Ben Carroll/Andrew Bruce (Sehome) def. Toby Dalla Santa/Lucas Reardon (Lynden) 7-6, 7-5; Jason Newell/Johan Lahud-Zahner (Sehome) def. Colby Harris/Koshi Fugii (Lake Washington) 7-5, 6-1; Tristan Jimenez/Connor Stumpf (Lake Washington) def. Aaron Morris/Zach Hart (Squalicum) 6-0, 6-0; Nick Smith/Brady Anderson (Sehome) def. Hector Brandt/Nathan Weide (Sedro-Woolley) 6-0, 6-0; Alvin Tran/Anthony Kao (Sammamish) def. Colton/SabenJake Kamps (Burlington-Edison) 6-3, 6-4; Nate Pearsall/Logan Schilder (Bellingham) def. Tyler Hobak/Carter Nickelson (Squalicum) 6-3, 6-1; E.J. Troutman/Auden Schilder (Bellingham) def. Trevor Dalla Santa/ Brock Benner (Lynden) 6-2, 6-3.
Connor Ross/Jeremy Sacks (Lake Washington) def. Ben Carroll/Andrew Bruce (Sehome) 6-3, 6-2; Tristan Jimenez/Connor Stumpf (Lake Washington) def. Jason Newell/Johan Lahud-Zahner (Sehome) 6-3, 6-0; Nick Smith/Brady Anderson (Sehome) def. Alvin Tran/Anthony Kao (Sammamish) 7-5, 6-2; E.J. Troutman/Auden Schilder (Bellingham) vs. Nate Pearsall/Logan Schilder (Bellingham) 6-0, 7-5.
NOTE: Carroll/Bruce second-round and quarterfinal results corrected Oct. 17.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.