Clawson, Smith bring home tennis title

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 26, 2013 

SEATTLE - Sehome sophomore Andrea Clawson and freshman Lauren Smith gave a remarkable show of maturity under pressure to win a state doubles title, while Bellingham senior Bella Hoyos shook off disappointment for the second consecutive season to take third place with a noteworthy display of heart.

That, their coaches say, sums up what these ambitious, sportsmanlike girls were all about not only at the Class 2A State Tennis Tournament on Saturday, May 25, at University of Washington's Nordstrom Tennis Center before a large, enthralled gathering, but all season.

Clawson and Smith, one of the youngest doubles teams ever to win at state, refused to wilt in the face of a second-set tiebreaker loss in the semifinals. Then they could not have been much more dominant, especially considering their youth, while sweeping the title match over Lake Washington's Amanda Levine and Kelly Barnes, 6-1, 6-2.

Hoyos, displaying mental as well as physical strength before her future college coaches at Whitworth College, won the third-place match over Capital's Lauren McCann, 6-2, 6-1, following the Bellingham leader's 6-4, 6-2 loss to Selah's McKenzie Kieser in the semifinals.

Clawson and Smith also earned another distinction for the Mariners they weren't aware of: Sehome's 10 points for fourth place in the girls' tournament, when added to the boys' 17 points to tie for second, gave longtime coach Bonna Giller's program a tournament-leading 27 points.

"Overall champion!" Giller said with a huge grin when this was pointed out to her.

The title may be mythical, but her emotions were as real as could be.

Clawson and Smith, who played No. 1 and 2 singles, respectively, for the young Northwest Conference champion Mariners, finished 12-1 in their season-ending stint in doubles.

"We try to stay as relaxed as possible," said Smith when asked the secret of their sudden success, especially considering their youth. "I think we accomplished that."

Clawson, who provides an accurate baseliner to go with Smith's newfound fondness for attacking the net, agreed wholeheartedly.

"Our shots are a lot better when we're relaxed," Clawson said.

The girls bought into Giller's idea that they play doubles, since they will have multiple years to go for a singles title. Of course, they pointed out a bonus: They each have the talent to push the other to the max.

"Andrea is usually the one who calms me down," Smith said, when Clawson pointed out how effectively Smith played that role in their 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 semifinal victory over Hockinson's Tiara Atchley and Jaymie Towne. The Hockinson team also lost a three-set match in the third/sixth final to Burlington-Edison's Mariah Swanson and Heaven Henry.

"I was really nervous (in the semifinal) and I was having a hard time," said Clawson. "But Lauren came through to calm me. When we won that third set (and advanced to the finals), it felt like a fresh start."

Clawson said having Lake Washington in the same district was beneficial.

"It helped that we had played the Lake Washington team before," said Clawson, who speaks more like a college girl than a high school sophomore.

Smith said it had always been her goal to be a state champion; she just didn't expect it so soon, and in doubles no less. But she had a good omen: Two days earlier she turned 15, and Clawson gave her a gorgeous pair of green earrings for her birthday.

"Those just might be lucky," Smith said with a laugh, looking toward the future.

Clawson said she hardly expected to see her sophomore season end this way, but she won't be satisfied without eventually bidding for state honors in singles.

Hoyos -- for whom Bellingham coach Steve Chronister has long since run out of superlatives regarding her ability, sportsmanship and heart - felt much the same way after sharing state doubles championships as a freshman and sophomore with older teammates. But a title just wasn't in the cards for the 5-foot-4 package of spirit.

"McKenzie's an awesome player," said Hoyos, who endured a five-hour outing that began at 8:30 a.m. with her loss to Kieser. "I had played her once before in the USTA and lost to her. I think I had that loss in the back of my head. I wound up trying to play her game, a lot of power tennis. But my game is to look for angles and to hit with topspin."

Hoyos acknowledged the pain of defeat in the semis.

"It was hard," she said. "But I just treated the third-place match as though it was for the championship. It was really helpful to have so many family and friends supporting me. A great crowd."

It also helped that her close friend, Burlington standout Anna Lefebvre, won the fourth-place medal on the adjacent court at the same time.

"Before the second set, everyone was clapping and yelling so much that I was laughing," said Hoyos. "That was awesome. And Anna and I kept telling each other, 'Go, Anna' and 'Go Bella.' That was great."

Hoyos was especially pleased her future college coaches were on hand.

"I was really happy to see Jo Wagstaff (head coach at Whitworth) and Rachel Aldridge (assistant) here," said Hoyos. "I'm not really upset. Being able to get here (for medals all four years) has been really humbling, because so few people ever get the chance."

All five of Whatcom County's boys' and girls' entrants - two singles players and three doubles teams -- won medals, leading Chronister to agree when asked if this wasn't the best local showing ever.

"You know, I really think it is," the veteran Bellingham coach said.

"It really does take a village to coach these kids," Giller said of the local standouts. "There is so much much support (from teammates, families, coaches and the Bellingham Tennis Club). This is just so great to see."

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