When asked to conjure up his most memorable moment of the season, Avery West was hard-pressed to think of one.
Eventually he spoke of Sehome's success and playing in front of a crowd during the Northwest District Tournament, but for West, 2012 seemed a lot like 2011 - a whole lot of wins and not much competition.
For the second year in a row West compiled a perfect record (18-0) through regular season and district play, won a Northwest District singles title, clinched a berth at the Class 2A State Tournament and dominated the area high-school tennis landscape.
"We had an excellent team this year," West said in a phone interview. "We got a lot of incoming freshmen, which got me into more of the role model side of things. I'm just playing really well right now."
For another flawless season, West has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Boys' Tennis Player of the Year. Mariners coach Bonna Giller, who led Sehome to a Northwest Conference title and qualified West, Brady Anderson and Nick Smith for the Class 2A State Tournament, is Coach of the Year.
Though many of West's results have been the same, he's changed quite a bit physically and mentally.
West spent the offseason playing, training and growing. He sprouted five inches since the end of last year, growing from 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-1. The spurt has overhauled his game and added several new dimensions to his tennis arsenal.
"Just my wing span and being able to hit down on my serve is a huge difference," West said. "I get to balls that I would usually have to go farther for. The net just seems to be way less of an obstacle."
Playing in United States Tennis Association tournaments, West began learning just how strong his tennis game had gotten. He began beating players he lost to previously and now considers himself among the upper-echelon junior players in the state.
Despite all of West's successes in the prep circuit, he is yet to stake his claim as a state champion. Giller believes his growth, physically and mentally, may put him over the top this time around.
"Avery has played year-round for many years, and his real challenge at state will be against many players that he has seen numerous times during his USTA matches," Giller wrote in an email. "Avery sits right there among the best in the state. He needs to be playing his best at state to win the title."
West also thinks this is the year he establishes himself as the top player in the 2As.
"I definitely know I'm a lot physically and mentally stronger," he said. "I've had such big wins during the offseason. I've been bringing my game to a whole new level and feel really confident. I've made some massive leaps and bounds I would say in just the level of my play."
West earned a fifth-place state finish as a freshman and a third-place finish as a sophomore.
While West said it's honestly hard for him to sometimes stay motivated in NWC matches he knows he's going to easily win, Giller said it's fun to watch her junior in his element.
"It's fun to watch Avery play in part due to the shots he comes up with - his pinpoint accuracy and his increased strength and smarter shot selection," Giller wrote. "He does a good job of being respectful to his opponents and has the discipline to not mess around on the court or toy with his opponents."
Avery, who has several passions besides tennis, said being a year older has helped put his tennis career into perspective.
He know knows he wants to play tennis in college and is using the game as a vehicle to hopefully help him pay for school via scholarship. He is in the midst of putting together a recruiting tape and sending it off to colleges.
"I just started to think about where I want my tennis and the kind of level I'm trying to achieve," West said. "I've realized the potential I have, and I just need to work hard from here."
West has coached tennis at the Bellingham Tennis Club for a handful of years, and said he enjoys seeing others show a willingness to learn the game that will undoubtedly open a lot of doors for him.
Playing with up-and-coming freshmen Brady Anderson and Max Shmotolokha this year also served as a breath of fresh air for him.
Though Sehome has seen many tennis talents in its program, a tennis title may put West in a category by himself.
"Avery is in the same company as some of our top great players that we have had in the recent past at Sehome, but what can set him apart from those guys will be how well he performs at state this spring and again his senior season," Giller wrote. "He can be the best, in terms of state results, that Sehome has ever had. That in itself, should be more than enough motivation for him."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
THROUGH THE YEARS
The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Boys' Tennis Athlete of the Year winners:
2012: Avery West, Sehome
2011: Avery West, Sehome
2010: Bjorn Thorpe and Matt Gobel, Sehome
2009: Will Topp, Sehome
2008: Will Topp, Sehome
2007: Will Topp, Sehome
2006: Adam Rager, Sehome
2005: John Farris, Squalicum
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.