BELLINGHAM - Red Raiders senior Chad Cheldelin spoiled Sehome's bid for a conference title two years ago. He's now sunk the Mariners' hopes for an outright title twice.
Cheldelin and doubles partner Dustin Watson were the final two on the court for a deciding match between Bellingham and Sehome in 2011. The Red Raiders won, going on to claim a Northwest Conference championship. Chedelin found himself in the same position with junior teammate Chris Nakatani on Thursday, Oct. 10, at Sehome High School.
All eyes were focused on Cheldelin and Nakatani - Bellingham's No. 3 doubles team - as they played Sehome's Henry Han and Devin Trueb on court No. 3 at Sehome long after the second-to-last varsity match was over. Sure enough, Bellingham and Sehome were tied at three. With Sehome coach Bonna Giller, Bellingham coach Steve Chronister, every player from both teams and fans glued to every stroke, Cheldelin and Nakatani pulled out a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win to help the Red Raiders avenge an early-season loss to Sehome with a 4-3 win during team's second meeting.
Bellingham rushed the court, embracing the duo following their dramatic win.
"I don't know how to describe it," Cheldelin said. "It was just awesome, seriously. I'll never forget that."
Said Nakatani: "It feels amazing. It sucks to lose on our home turf, but it's even better to win on someone else's. It really shows how good everyone played and how great a team we are."
The win was just the second time Bellingham has beaten Sehome since 2005. It also snapped a 20-match win streak the Mariners had dating back a 2012 loss to Lake Washington.
Chedelin and Nakatani quickly put a second-set loss behind them and dominated the final set. Chronister credited his doubles team's poise under pressure to similar situations they've experienced.
"Chad has done this before," said Chronister of Cheldelin's big 2011 win. "Chad was in the deciding match the same thing like this two years ago, and Chris did the same thing in a JV match a couple years ago. He was down even further. They have both been there before, and I think that helped."
To put the intensity of Chedelin's and Nakatani's focus into perspective, neither of them even knew their match was the deciding factor until their teammates rushed the court afterward.
Chronister's doubles team may have wrapped up Bellingham's win, but they were far from the only ones who contributed to the victory, which had all the makings of a classic rivalry.
Three matches went three sets, every match contained memorable rallies and even some heated exchanges were dealt between players.
Sehome's Brady Anderson and Reece Gilbert maintained their perfect records with singles wins against Liam Miszczak and Sam Ferguson, respectively. Anderson won 6-0, 6-1, and Gilbert won 6-1, 6-2.
After getting swept in singles the first time the two clubs met, Bellingham's Charlie Carmichael earned a very important 6-3, 6-1 No. 4-singles win against Charlie Lahud-Zahner.
Nate Pearsall and Logan Schilder, Bellingham's No. 1 doubles team, beat Aaron Goldfogle and Sam Humphreys 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, and Nick Nolan and Greg Johnson beat Sehome's John Vaughan and Cameron Adrian 6-2, 6-1.
But no match typified the city school's rivalry like the No. 2 singles match between Sehome's Max Shmotolohka and Bellingham's Connor Thompson.
Both players battled back and forth for three sets, each visibly showing emotion with fist pumps and vocal self-affirmation. Thompson bounced back to earn a 6-3 second-set win over Shmotolohka after falling 6-3 in the first set. But Shmotolohka maintained enough composure to earn a 6-3 win in the final set. The victory tied the overall match at three wins apiece.
But the momentum built was short lived after Cheldelin and Nakatani earned their three-set victory.
"We have been playing pretty well lately, and I thought if we could play like that we'd have a chance," Chronister said. "It was just a matter of matchups. Really the biggest difference of us and them from the first time and second time was the lineup difference."
Bellingham (11-1, 11-1 NWC) and Sehome (10-1, 10-1 NWC) will share a conference title if they both win out. Both team's only loss was to each other.
The Red Raiders are scheduled to play Lynden next at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, and the Mariners play Sedro-Woolley next at the same time and date.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
BELLINGHAM 4, SEHOME 3
Singles: Brady Anderson (Sehome) def. Liam Miszczak (Bellingham) 6-0, 6-1; Max Shmotolohka (Sehome) def. Connor Thompson (Bellingham) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; Reece Gilbert (Sehome) def. Sam Ferguson (Bellingham) 6-1, 6-2; Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) def. Charlie Lahud-Zahner (Sehome) 6-3, 6-1.
Doubles: Nate Pearsall/Logan Schilder (Bellingham) def. Aaron Goldfogle/Sam Humphreys (Sehome) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2; Nick Nolan/Greg Johnson (Bellingham) def. John Vaughan/Cameron Adrian (Sehome) 6-2, 6-1; Chad Cheldelin/Chris Nakatani (Bellingham) def. Henry Han/Devin Trueb (Sehome) 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.