BELLINGHAM - Sehome tennis coach Bonna Giller made the right call.
With a week left in the regular season, Giller decided to pair Nick Smith and Brady Anderson - Sehome's No. 2 and No. 3 singles players, respectively - for doubles post-season play.
"I talked to Nick first, being the elder statesman, and he hemmed and hawed a little bit but decided he liked the idea," Giller said. "I thought the whole season, as well as Nick and Brady, that they were going singles all the way. We got two strong additions to our district (Lake Washington and Sammamish) this year, so I thought it would be best, strategy-wise, to play them together."
Smith said he and Anderson maximized their court time leading up to districts. After practicing long hours at school, the two often headed to the Bellingham Tennis Club, where they set up doubles matches for extra practice.
The preparation paid off.
Smith and Anderson began day three of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Bellingham's E.J. Troutman and Auden Schilder then cruised to a doubles district title with a 6-2, 6-2 win in the final against Lake Washington's Connor Ross and Jeremy Sacks on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Sehome High School.
The win clinched Anderson and Smith a Class 2A State Tournament berth. Smith earned his second state trip after playing as a singles entry last season. Anderson, a freshman, is heading to state for the first time.
"It's probably the best we played all tournament," said Smith of the doubles final. "Brady really stepped up and played his top-notch game. That helped carry us."
The win improved Anderson's overall record to 22-0 in singles and doubles matches, and Smith improved to 21-1.
Even though Smith, a senior, has three grade levels on Anderson and the two began playing doubles two weeks ago, Giller wasn't shocked by their success.
"No, not surprised at all," Giller said. "If I had the stats to prove it, I would have argued for them to be a No. 1 seed."
Anderson and Smith simply played the best tennis. Their No. 3 seed didn't matter, nor did their age difference.
"Nick has big, great hard strokes and definitely has good returns," Anderson said of his teammate. "His serves put pressure on the other team."
"His net game is really strong," Smith said of Anderson's game. "He has super quick hands and gets every volley back and can set the point up to get a good put away."
The two styles meshed perfectly.
Anderson and Smith weren't the only Mariners to win a district title Wednesday.
Singles player Avery West gave Sehome a singles-doubles sweep by beating Sammamish's Ethan Romney 6-2, 6-1 in the singles final. He beat Anacortes' Jared Wigen 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinal.
The win was his second singles Northwest District title in a row. As a freshman, West placed second.
"It felt amazing," West said. "I'd say this is my toughest year yet. There were some really good competitors. I'd say I'm playing my best tennis, and it definitely feels like the end to a very good season."
West, who said his goal was to not drop a game the entire tournament, didn't quite reach his objective, but he'll get the chance to reach a more important goal at the state tournament.
"This will be my third year (going to state)," West said. "I got fifth my first year and third last year, so now I'm definitely going for the state medal. I think I can get it."
He's added quite a bit to his game since last year. Besides his increase in height - 5 inches from a year ago - Giller said her No. 1 singles player has improved his mental and emotional game.
"Physical, emotional and mental - all three of those things he's grown and matured in this year," Giller said. "Even when he is under matched against an opponent, he'll find things to work on."
Anderson, Smith and West enjoyed individual accomplishments, but all nine Sehome entries helped the Marines capture another team district title.
Those nine, outside of Sehome's doubles and singles champions, included Johan Lahud-Zahner, Andrew Bruce, Jason Newell, Ben Carroll, Max Shmotolokha and Arie Knops.
"I was so afraid the last couple of weeks with the additions of Lake Washington and Sammamish," Giller said. "I think this is the first time for us that all nine spots contributed points."
The day belonged to Sehome, but Bellingham's Troutman and Schilder kept their doubles state tournament chances alive with a gritty 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 win against Lahud-Zahner and Newell. The pair faces Lake Washington's Tristan Jimenez and Connor Stumpf Thursday, Oct. 18, for a chance to play for a guaranteed state berth.
"They did a lot of good things," Bellingham coach Steve Chronister said of his tandem. "They were up and down at times, but I think they had a lot of good moments."
Shmotolokha and Bellingham's Charlie Carmichael ended their bids for a state berth. Shmotolokha knocked out Carmichael in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket and the Sehome freshman lost in the consolation semis to Wigen.
Wigen faces Lake Washington's Arash Hafizi Thursday for the right to play Romney for a state berth.
Squalicum's James Tan was the only Storm player to reach day three of districts but lost his first match 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-6(4).
"I just wanted to go out and play my best tennis and have fun," Tan said. "Last year was my first year playing tennis. My goal was to get farther than I did last year."
Tan achieved his goal by reaching day three of districts.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
CLASS 2A NORTHWEST DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
At Sehome High School
Avery West (Sehome) def. Jared Wigen (Anacortes) 6-2, 6-0; Ethan Romney (Sammamish) def. Arash Hafizi (Lake Washington) 6-0, 6-2.
Avery West (Sehome) def. Ethan Romney (Sammamish) 6-2, 6-1.
Connor Ross/Jeremy Sacks (Lake Washington) def. Tristan Jimenez and Connor Stumpf (Lake Washington)3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3); Nick Smith/Brady Anderson (Sehome) def. E.J. Troutman/Auden Schilder (Bellingham) 6-0, 7-5
Nick Smith/Brady Anderson (Sehome) def. Connor Ross/Jeremy Sacks (Lake Washington) 6-2, 6-2.
Fergy Lu (Lake Washington) def. James Tan (Squalicum) 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-6(4); Max Shmotolokha (Sehome) def. Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) not reported; Arash Hafizi (Lake Washington) def. Fergy Lu (Lake Washington) 6-4, 6-2; Jared Wigen (Anacortes) def. Max Shmotolokha (Sehome) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
Johan Lahud-Zahner/Jason Newell (Sehome) def. Ben Carroll/Andrew Bruce (Sehome) 6-1, 6-1; Alvin Tran/Anthony Kao (Sammamish) def. Logan Schilder/Nate Pearsall (Bellingham) not reported; E.J. Troutman/Auden Schilder (Bellingham) def. Johan Lahud-Zahner/Jason Newell (Sehome) 6-0, 4-6, 6-4; Tristan Jimenez/Connor Stumpf (Lake Washington) def. Alvin Tran/Anthony Kao (Sammamish) 6-1, 6-3.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.