Sehome's West wins tennis singles title

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 26, 2013 

SEATTLE -- Avery West was sold on Sehome coach Bonna Giller's "5-3-1 plan" when she mentioned it last season.

The Sehome junior indeed capped an unbeaten season with the boys' singles championship in the Class 2A State Tennis Tournament on Saturday, May 25, at the University of Washington's Nordstrom Tennis Center. His title came in the wake of third place as a sophomore and fifth as a freshman.

So what's next?

"A 5-3-1-1 plan," West said with a grin. "I knew in the back of my head (after last season) that's what I wanted - 5-3-1. I had those numbers in mind."

He is, however, not taking anything for granted, to say the least, considering that the boy he beat in the finals, Capital's Ty Gentry, is one of the state's finest freshmen.

West, who won his first two matches the day before without giving up a game, beat Gentry 6-3, 6-3. West topped Lake Washington's Arash Hefizi in straight sets in the semifinals.

The City of Bellingham also claimed two doubles medals as the teams of Sehome senior Nick Smith and freshman Brady Anderson took fourth and Bellingham seniors Auden Schilder and E.J. Troutman claimed fifth, both with a pair of wins on a long but memorable Saturday.

West said the "off-season" - he had to wait for state since winning district honors last fall - taught him a lot.

"I really learned a lot in the last three months," he said. "I really realized it's all in your mental attitude. I feel you've got to cage-fight a guy here. That's the intensity I brought today."

West's stylish combination of power, finesse and aggressiveness captivated a large, loud crowd that left very little space upstairs to watch him.

"I totally dug the crowd," said West, who has grown about nine inches to 6-foot-2 since he was a most precocious freshman. "I love it here, having a crowd like this."

West was especially gratified to win state as a junior, since he'll be on more colleges coaches' radar.

"I really want to play tennis in college," said West, whom Sehome coach Giller feels has Division I potential. "I don't want to put a divisional label on it, but I'll talk with any college coach who calls."

Would he like to be pursued by, say, three or four dozen coaches?

"Oh, sure, that would be great," he said.

Giller said West "played with a lot of confidence, a lot of poise."

"From start to finish in the tournament, Avery was so focused," said Giller, a longtime coach for whom West follows Will Topp as a Sehome state champion. For the first time, Giller came away with two state titlists in the same year, since Smith's sister, freshman Lauren Smith, and sophomore Andrea Clawson claimed the girls' doubles championship (see separate story).

It was also a day to remember for Smith and Anderson, who played No. 2 and 3 singles behind West for the Mariners, then worked hard as a doubles team in the off-season when Giller talked them into competing at district in doubles.

"I never thought my senior year would wind up like this," said Smith, who qualified for state in singles as a junior and went 0-2. "The more I thought about the idea of playing doubles, the more I told myself, 'That's actually a very good idea.'"

Smith and Anderson beat the Pullman team of Joe Chung and Jamison Simonson, 6-4, 6-3, in the fourth/seventh place match. The Smith/Anderson team opened the day with an exemplary 6-0, 6-0 win over Gabe Valley and Brian Ridd of Yakima West Valley.

Last fall, Smith quickly realized Anderson was an exceptional high school freshman.

"Brady has the quickest hands, with real good reflexes," said Smith, who wound up 25-1 in all matches this season and 61-12 for his career. Such success is why he'll try to crack Pacific Lutheran University's lineup.

Likewise, Anderson said Smith's ground strokes were so consistent, it made for an efficient pairing.

Anderson, who speaks like a much more experienced player, also brought another quality to the pair - leadership - and the two said they would honestly assess what the other needed to work on.

"We would always pick each other up a lot. I'd see myself as a leader," said Anderson, who would love to follow teammate Avery West as a state singles champion by the time he's a junior or senior. "I would love to be team captain some day. My goal is to go as far as I can in tennis."

For Bellingham's Schilder and Troutman, their fifth place medal marked what they said would be their last school-type tennis. Schilder said he has verbally committed to play goalkeeper for the University of Washington's soccer team and Troutman indicated he may play club tennis wherever he winds up in college.

The Schilder/Troutman team shut out North Kitsap's C.J. Butler and Gus Cardoso, 6-0, 6-0, in their first match Saturday, then played a whole lot of dramatic points nicely to beat Lake Washington's Connor Ross and Jeremy Sacks 6-3, 6-4, in the fifth/eighth place match.

"This was a good way to go out," said Schilder, who combined with Troutman not only for about 13 feet of towering tennis -- both are in the 6-foot-6 range -- but also helped make up for disappointing recent state setbacks in regular spring sports.

One of the most versatile doubles teams Bellingham coach Steve Chronister has ever seen, four-year star goalie Schilder saw his Red Raiders lose in the state soccer quarterfinals and Troutman missed the cut after his round in state golf earlier in the week.

"We're really pleased," said Chronister. "It's a really great finish for them. They served and returned well, and they just smothered the net. I've never had two kids in a spring sport also at state tennis. They really were just squeezing in tennis workouts, so what they accomplished was remarkable. They were extraordinary. They hit some forehands that nobody could reach."

Troutman, who was third in doubles last year with a different partner, agreed.

"This feels great," he said, indicating he surpassed expectations since Schilder was so busy all spring with such an intense soccer season.

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