Sehome girls' tennis ends Bellingham's run

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 24, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Sehome's Kristen Chalmers and Jane Clawson enjoyed that truly golden moment - in rare spring sunshine, no less - that every senior dreams of, but so few ever experience.

"I am so stoked! I'm really proud of how our (whole) team played," said Clawson, minutes after she and fellow senior Chalmers clinched a milestone 6-1 victory for the otherwise young Mariners over Northwest Conference girls' tennis power Bellingham.

"Bellingham's a really strong team," said Chalmers, who combined with Clawson for a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory over Tess Owen and Catie Welch at No. 2 doubles for Sehome's match-clinching fourth win in a memorable match at Bellingham on Tuesday, April 23. The match began eight days earlier but was halted by rain.

"We've been talking about this for a long time," Chalmers said. "I wondered if we would finally be deep enough and finally be strong enough to beat Bellingham."

The Mariners (9-0 overall, 3-0 NWC) learned they were, indeed, strong enough and deep enough to beat the Red Raiders (9-1, 3-1).

Longtime Bellingham coach Steve Chronister readily acknowledged that Sehome was a deserving winner.

"You can't win forever," he said with a sporting grin. "Sehome was clearly better than us. They have good players and they were just better.

"We came in today with 105 wins in (Bellingham's past) 106 matches, since the start of 2007," Chronister said. "Squalicum ended our 58-match streak in 2010 and now Sehome has ended our 47-match streak."

The interesting aspect was, as Sehome coach Bonna Giller put it, "I don't know if our young girls really knew how big this match was."

Giller said she couldn't be prouder of how her young team responded.

"I'm very proud of how our girls and how they battled," she said. "We're really young. I was concerned how they would handle that type of pressure. Steve's got a great program. Our girls really were poised under pressure."

Giller and several of her players pointed out that the victory was especially rewarding because of how well the young team has bonded already.

"This is the tightest, closest, most fun group I've coached," said the veteran coach, who requires all her players to stay and root for every teammate - even in the exhibition matches - until every girl has finished.

Sehome came into the day with a 1-0 lead, thanks to undefeated Simone Hall's 6-0, 6-0 win over previously unbeaten Kara Burns at No. 3 singles. Sehome freshman Lauren Smith (9-0) then scored Tuesday's first victory, a 6-0, 6-1 win over Kira Vazorka.

Sophomore twins Madison and Taylor Harris (9-0 at No. 1 doubles) gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kate Troutman and Cari Pearsall. Not long after, Chalmers and Clawson came off the court with the most meaningful victory over their four-year careers, giving the team an unbeatable 4-0 edge.

The next match, Bellingham Class 2A state title hopeful Bella Hoyos' 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 win over Sehome sophomore Andrea Clawson at No. 1 singles, also had Giller stoked.

"That was just an awesome display of tennis," said Giller, pointing out that Clawson was at her best to take a set like that from Hoyos (10-0). "Andrea definitely played to the level of her opponent."

Sehome wrapped up the match with two more wins. Lizzie Friesen (9-0) won at No. 4 singles over Mariah Miller 6-0, 6-2, and Natalie Knops and Nicola Morrow (8-1) prevailed at No. 3 doubles over previously unbeaten Oliva Giles and Leah Nichols 6-2, 6-4, after being tied at 3-3 in the second set.

Several of the matches were spread over both playing dates.

Sehome's Lauren Smith - an impressive freshman who has dreamed of tennis success since she was a lot shorter than her current 5-foot-7, followed Giller's advice to her entire team to the letter.

"I just approached this match like any other," Smith said. "I thought it was one of my best matches. We went to deuce a lot and we both had some really great points. I always used to watch my brother's matches (senior state tournament qualifier Nick Smith) and so it's really exciting to be playing in something like this."

Smith said she's determined to become more aggressive.

"I was trying to open up the court, to move (Vazorka) around the court," she said. "I've been going to the net a lot more."

After twins Madison and Taylor Harris played No. 2 doubles on the junior varsity as freshmen, Madison gave up volleyball this school year - Taylor said she also plans to focus on tennis only from now on - in order to take a shot at advancing to the varsity.

"We're very close and we have great chemistry and really work well together," said Madison. "I think our coach noticed our chemistry and she figured we would work well together. Our confidence level has improved a lot. We just have a better mindset now."

Taylor, the taller of the two, said their doubles team has emerged as No. 1 at Sehome in large part because of how they have learned to be more aggressive.

"That's been our main goal," Taylor said. "We will run down that ball. We both like to play at the net."

Andrea Clawson, Jane's younger cousin, said she gained motivation with her strong showing in her defeat against the often brilliant Hoyos, who was third at state singles last year after winning doubles titles her first two seasons at Bellingham.

"I figured I didn't have anything to lose," said Andrea. "I wasn't nervous at all. Bella always plays really well. This definitely makes me want to work harder."

The miserable weather much of this spring means both teams will be plenty busy finishing their nine-match league schedules by the required May 4 date. This season, there will be both sub-district and district competition before the state tournament.

SEHOME 6, BELLINGHAM 1

Singles: Bella Hoyos (B) def. Andrea Clawson 6-3, 1-6, 6-2; Lauren Smith (S) def. Kira Vazorka 6-0, 6-1; Simone Hall (S) def. Kara Burns 6-0, 6-0; Lizzie Friesen (S) def. Mariah Miller 6-0, 6-2.

Doubles: Madison Harris/Taylor Harris (S) def. Kate Troutman/Cari Pearsall 6-4, 6-3; Jane Clawson/Kristen Chalmers (S) def. Tess Owen/Catie Welch 7-6 (7-4), 6-4; Natalie Knops/Nicola Morrow (S) def. Olivia Giles/Leah Nichols 6-2, 6-4.

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