Sehome's Smith siblings ready to share the stage at state

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 24, 2013 

Nick Smith (pictured) and his sister Lauren Smith are both playing in the state tournaments this weekend.

They may not have all that uncommon a surname, but the bright red hair is a dead giveaway that Sehome tennis players Nick and Lauren Smith are siblings.

But that's not the only similarity Mariners coach Bonna Giller sees in her two players.

"Well, the red hair, obviously, won't be missed," Giller said. "But they're also both very passionate about tennis. They don't like to lose - not only a match, but even points. You can read frustration on their face - their defensive mechanism is kind of built the same way. ... They're both singles players, primarily baseliners, they're aggressive and they play with a lot of passion - all qualities you want in a tennis player."

On Friday, May 24, you can add one more similarity to that list - participant in the 2013 Class 2A Tennis State Championships at the UW Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle.

Though Giller said she has had a number of siblings play at state for Sehome over her tenure, this is the first time she can remember having a brother and sister make the trip in the same year.

"It's really exciting," Lauren said in a phone interview. "I've gone and watched (Nick) before. It's going to be really weird actually playing there, too. I never thought I would make it there as a freshman, but it was my goal."

She accomplished the feat by teaming with Andrea Clawson to win the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament doubles title last week. The duo, which has posted an 8-1 mark since being paired together for the final regular-season match earlier this month, will face Tumwater's Emily Barclift and McKenzie Click in the first round of the state tournament.

While Lauren is making her first appearance as a player at state, she watched her senior brother make it during his junior year as a singles entry.

Like his younger sister, Nick played singles through most of his senior season before he was paired with Brady Anderson for the boys' district tournament. They ended up going 5-0 to win their own district title and claim a spot in the state bracket, where they will face Lindbergh's Peter Vu and John Franco in the first round.

Nick said the duo has continued to work together and improve their communication, practicing at least three days a week together during the long hiatus between the end of the boys' district tournament and the start of the state tournament.

And now that state is finally here, Nick said he's excited to share the stage with Lauren.

"It's cool that we get to go to state together, and root for each other and both get to play," Nick said. "It makes it really special, especially seeing as how this is my last year of high school tennis. ... I was proud of how well she did in her first year of high school tennis."

Think he's proud? Just consider how their parents must be feeling.

"It's going to be so exciting," their mother Stephanie Walters said in a phone interview. "It's going to be nerve-wracking, too. I think they're all going into it to do the best that they can and have some fun at the same time. It's a level of competition that Nick has experienced before. I think it will be great for Lauren and Andrea to experience it."

Walters also plays tennis, but she says, "not very well. I began at 41."

Even her husband, Larry Walters, is starting to take lessons.

"The kids were into it, and I thought, 'We'll have fun playing together,'" Stephanie said. "I think we've played together for all of five minutes. Obviously, they've surpassed me."

Nick and Lauren have surpassed a lot of people.

During his four years, Nick has posted an 82.6 varsity win percentage in his matches (57-12), including a 21-1 mark so far as a senior.

Though he's spent most of his time playing singles, he's certainly shown an aptitude for the doubles game.

"Nick's a tremendous competitor," Giller said. "He's played a number of tough matches for us, so he knows what to expect. He realizes that once you get to state, things click up a couple of notches."

That will be a new experience for Lauren, who posted a 14-0 singles record this year before being paired with Clawson.

"She kind of breezed through her singles matches and was never really tested," Giller said. "When the postseason arrived, she was tested in a number of different ways. Not only did the competition get tougher, but she had the responsibility and commitment to work with a partner. She was used to working for herself, and then she had to work with somebody else. But she's done a great job handling that."

Having an older brother who had previously gone through those same adjustments didn't hurt Lauren, either.

As any good sibling would, Nick offered advice to his sister, encouraging her and suggesting ways to stay focused during the rigors of a postseason tennis tournament.

"Nick has been really good at mentoring her, and the surprising thing is she was really good at receiving his advice," Walters said. "It was neat to see her listen to him, because she wouldn't always do that."

And Lauren has put Nick's advice to good use.

"I think I take him more seriously when he gives me advice about tennis," she said. "He knows what he's doing, because he's got a lot of experience."

But this weekend definitely will be a different experience from anything Nick or Lauren has ever experienced before - playing in a state tournament while rooting for their sibling.

Nor are they likely to experience it again, as Nick plans to move on to Pacific Lutheran University and attempt to continue his tennis career there after his graduation next month.

"I expect it to be something special," Giller said. "I've got one Smith that has given four awesome years to Sehome tennis, so it's kind of bittersweet, because I'm watching him move on. But at the same time, I've got four more years with another Smith that is just as talented. It keeps the tradition going."

As you would expect, the entire family plans to savor the moment this weekend, as well.

"I am incredibly proud of both Nick and Lauren," Walters said. "They have worked so hard to achieve their success. They are very supportive of one another, especially when it comes to tennis. It is their common bond, and it is a very special thing that they get to be at state together in Nick's last year of high school tennis."

Reach David Rasbach david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2286.

CLASS 2A STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT

When: Friday and Saturday, May 24-25

Site: University of Washington Nordstrom Tennis Center, Seattle

WHATCOM COUNTY QUALIFIERS

Girls' singles

? Bella Hoyos (Bellingham)

Girls' doubles

? Andrea Clawson/Lauren Smith (Sehome)

Boys' singles

? Avery West (Sehome)

Boys' doubles

? Brady Anderson/Nick Smith (Sehome)

? E.J. Troutman/Auden Schilder (Bellingham)

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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