BELLINGHAM - Don't let her smile or sweet disposition fool you - Bellingham senior Bella Hoyos has the heart of a warrior.
"She can flip a switch when it's match time," Bellingham tennis coach Steve Chronister said. "She's a sweet girl, fun kid, but she knows when she goes on the tennis court it's time to compete."
Not even battling a blister larger than the size of a quarter on the ball of her right foot was going to stop her on Thursday, May 9, during the singles championship match of the Class 2A North Sub-District Tournament at Sehome High School.
Despite a noticeable limp after several points because of the blister, Hoyos made quick work of close friend and top rival Anna Lefebvre of Burlington-Edison with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Though the duo have battled to three sets during both of their regular-season meetings this spring, Hoyos said her blister made that an extremely unwanted option on Thursday.
"That was my biggest incentive to win in two sets," Hoyos said. "I don't know how long I would have lasted if it went to three."
While Hoyos made sure to keep her match short, Sehome's Simone Hall and Lizzie Friesen managed to stretch their doubles championship match to three sets after dropping a first-set tie-breaker to Burlington-Edison's Mariah Swanson and Heaven Henry and emerged with a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The sub-district title was quite impressive considering the duo were playing in just their fifth match together and both have a reputation as baseline players in singles.
"It was something I definitely wanted," Hall said. "I knew it was going to be hard to get there - it was going to be a challenge, but I thought we could do it, and we did."
Five entries in each draw move on to the 2A Northwest District Tournament, which will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, May 14-15, at Sehome.
Joining the two singles finalists in advancing to next week will be Sedro-Woolley's Pauline Mosch, Bellingham's Kira Vazorka and Anacortes' Paola Jurkovich. Mosch beat Jurkovich in the third-place match 7-6, 7-5, while Vazorka beat Devon Kollmyer in the fifth-place match 6-1, 6-1 to secure the last spot.
Joining the two doubles teams from Thursday's finals in next week's district doubles draw will be Bellingham's Catie Welch and Kate Troutman, Sehome's Andrea Clawson and Lauren Smith and Sehome's Madison and Taylor Harris. Clawson and Smith beat Welch and Troutman in the third-place match 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, while the Harris' beat Lynden's Tilly Timmer and Morgan Otter 6-0, 6-4 for the fifth and final spot.
This is the first year since the move to the Northwest Conference in 2007 that the sub-district format has been used in girls' tennis.
Hoyos said she actually prefers the format, as it spreads the tournament play over an extra week.
It will also give her an extra week to try to let her blister heal.
"It's like an ongoing thing for me," she said. "I'm known for having blisters. I think the heat out here this week especially contributed to it."
She said she started to feel a little bit of a rub during her first match of the tournament on Tuesday, May 7, and realized it was going to be a problem late in her semifinal win over Jurkovich on Wednesday, May 8.
But there was no way she was going to miss a match against Lefebvre, who has been a close friend since they met as youngsters taking tennis lessons at the Bellingham Tennis Club and attended summer tennis camps.
The pair, who could pass for sisters, have even played doubles together in United States Tennis Association tournaments and recently took a trip to Oregon together to look at prospective colleges.
"Being such close friends, it's almost easy to play her," Hoyos said. "We both have the understanding that when we are on the court, we both want to beat each other, but whatever happens, we know it won't change our friendship."
That friendship showed after the match, as the two embraced at the net, and Lefebvre showed genuine concern for Hoyos, as the Bellingham senior sat down to take off her shoe and hobble off the court with one pink sock.
As soon as she got hugs and congratulations from friends, family and fans, she found a spot in the shade and put her aching foot on ice.
"A lot of steps hurt her, but she just played great," Chronister said "She's hitting the ball so sure and hitting it where she wants it to go on such a regular basis. You could tell she played a lot of points that were pretty painful for her. She was very impressive out there today."
Just as impressive is the progress that Hall and Friesen have made together.
The sophomore and freshman first played a high school match together on Saturday, May 4, and ended up losing to Welch and Troutman in an all doubles dual meet in the regular-season finale.
"I knew I had my work cut out for me because they are both baseliners in singles," Sehome coach Bonna Giller said. "They like to be on the baseline. Neither one is comfortable coming to the net. Their strokes are slow and deliberate. Doubles is different, you've got to push. You can't be slow and deliberate. You've got to attack and hit the ball on the rise and always, always try to move forward and close on the net."
But as the sub-district tournament went on, Giller said she saw her young players start to feel more and more comfortable at the net.
And there's no disputing their ability to put a bad set or game or point behind them.
Hall and Friesen jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, only to watch Swanson and Henry come back to take a 6-5 lead. Hall and Friesen had to break just to force the tiebreaker, and Swanson and Henry owned that.
"We looked what we could do and improve and not get down," Hall said. "We knew we could take them and showed that in the first set. We just kept with it."
And keep with it they did, cruising relatively smoothly through the second and third sets to grab their fourth straight win.
Now the question is, with this much promise shown in only five matches together, just how far can they go together?
"We just take each win and use it as a confidence booster," Friesen said. "Now we've won sub-district and beaten some really good opponents, we'll move on to next week."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
CLASS 2A NORTH SUB-DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Bella Hoyos (Bellingham) def. Anna Lefebvre (Burlington-Edison) 6-2, 6-2.
Consolation second round
Pauline Mosch (Sedro-Woolley) def. Devon Kollmyer (Lynden) 6-2, 7-5
Paola Jurkovich (Anacortes) def. Kira Vazorka (Bellingham) 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3
Pauline Mosch (Sedro-Woolley) vs. Paola Jurkovich (Anacortes) 7-6 (3), 7-5
Kira Vazorka (Bellingham) def. Devon Kollmyer (Lynden) 6-1, 6-1
Simon Hall/Lizzie Friesen (Sehome) def. Mariah Swanson/Heaven Henry (Burlington-Edison) 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2.
Consolation second round
Catie Welch/Kate Troutman (Bellingham) def. Tilly Timmer/Morgan Otter (Lynden) 6-0, 6-4; Andrea Clawson/Lauren Smith (Sehome) def. Madison Harris/Taylor Harris (Sehome) 6-1, 6-4.
Andrea Clawson/Lauren Smith (Sehome) def. Catie Welch/Kate Troutman (Bellingham) 2-6, 7-5, 6-1
Fifth place match
Madison Harris/Taylor Harris (Sehome) def. Tilly Timmer/Morgan Otter (Lynden) 6-0, 6-4
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.