Bellingham tennis coach Steve Chronister was preparing his "you played amazing, it was a tough break" speech. Doubles partners E.J. Troutman and Auden Schilder had all but lost their winner-to-state Class 2A Northwest District title match.
Down two match points in set two after losing the first set 5-7, the Red Raider duo bounced back to win the second set 7-6(7) and followed with a 6-2 third-set win to capture a state berth Friday, Oct. 19, at the Bellingham Tennis Club.
"Without a doubt, it was the best we played all season, period," Chronister said in a phone interview. "It was a privilege to watch them play. It was such a high-quality match."
The win marks the third time Troutman has qualified for state. He was paired with Reed Welch the last two years. It's Schilder's first time making the Class 2A State Tournament.
Responding to adversity typified Troutman's and Schilder's tournament.
After losing to Sehome's Nick Smith and Brady Anderson in the semifinals of the winner's bracket Wednesday, Oct. 17, Troutman and Schilder took the long route to earn a state berth.
The duo won a tough three-set match against Sehome's Johan Lahud-Zahner and Jason Newell, and then beat Lake Washington's Tristan Jimenez and Connor Stumpf 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4 before coming from behind to beat Connor Ross and Jeremy Sacks of Lake Washington in the winner-to-state match.
"It feels awesome," Troutman said in a phone interview. "I honestly didn't expect to be going to state this year, just because Auden isn't a full-time player. He is a soccer player. I'm just going to tell him to bring his best at state and we'll see, because the teams only get harder. I'll tell him to bring the same game and come out strong."
With the pair's season in jeopardy, Schilder said he and Troutman played like they didn't want their year to end.
"We knew this was probably our last shot to get (to state)," Schilder said. "We knew if we let them get one more point, it would be the end of our season. We kept it going and won the third set."
Chronister said he has always instilled an "on the next point attitude" in his team. Schilder and Troutman displayed it Friday.
"After the first set, we go talk to the coaches, and (Chronister) would have good ideas for us to change things up," Troutman said. "That really helped us out and helped us hunker down and come back."
Schilder and Troutman join Sehome district doubles champions Smith and Anderson as well as Mariners' singles district champion Avery West to give Whatcom County three Class 2A State Tournament entries.
State begins Friday, May 24, 2013, at the University of Washington and Kamiakin High School.
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