BELLINGHAM - Sehome's Max Shmotolokha leaves nothing to the imagination. He's vocal, intense and rarely holds back his emotions. His doubles partner, Reece Gilbert, is everything else. Reserved, quiet, rarely succumbing to his emotions in any visible way.
"They very much are the yin and yang," Sehome coach Bonna Giller said.
All differences aside, the pair came together from down a set to win the Class 2A District Tennis Tournament doubles title 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at Sehome High School. The sophomores earned an automatic bid into the state tennis tournament with the win.
The differences between the two were apparent in the opening set. Shmotolokha's emotions were running hotter by the moment with each unforced error. His white hat and raquet often times found the ground in front of his feet, his head cradled in his hands yelling at himself to "finish."
"They got their butts kicked," Giller said.
Shmotolokha echoed his coach's sentiment in regard to that difficult opening set.
"I felt like I was a little hotheaded," Shmotolokha said.
Lake Washington's pairing of Fergy Lu and Tristan Jiminez was controlling the points from the service, and Gilbert and Shmotolokha were returning their volleys and ground strokes directly at them, rarely forcing them to get out of position.
The opening set came to an end, and Giller, like she does with all her players, had a meeting at the fence. Calming an "excitable" Shmotolokha down was the main objective, she said, but also getting them back to playing their style of tennis. As it seemed through the first three games, nothing was working. The Sehome pair lost the opening three games, and the road to state seemed destined to go through the consolation bracket.
But then things began to change. One point compounded another, and quickly the Sehome pair tied the match up at three games apiece. Lake Washington held serve to take a 4-3 advantage, but Shmotolokha and Gilbert strung together the final three games to take the set and even the match.
"We just started (being) more aggressive, and they started making more errors," Gilbert said.
Momentum, clearly, had swung Sehome's way, and the pair won the first three games in the final set before Lake Washington finally stopped the bleeding.
"They blinked, and we just said, 'OK,' and threw one right in their face," Shmotolokha said.
After winning the next two games to take a 5-1 lead, and posed with a match point, Shmotolokha got the opportunity to do something he struggled with throughout much of the mach: finish with an overhead smash.
The opening set saw opportunity after opportunity fall into the net for him when in the same situation. This time, though, he wouldn't.
"I remember last year I made a name for myself hitting overheads over the fence," Shmotolokha said. "Might as well win it like that."
Lake Washington's player lofted his racquet 15 feet in the air out of desperation, but to no avail.
"This is the first district title for both of us, (so) this is the special one," Shmotolokha said.
"It felt great," Gilbert added.
Their Sehome teammate, Brady Anderson, didn't quite find the same fortune as he lost 6-1, 6-1 in the championship match against Sammamish's Ethan Romney. Anderson, Sehome's No. 1 singles players, had only lost one match all season, and it just so happened to be to Romney 6-0, 6-1 earlier in the season.
"He didn't beat me. I beat myself," Anderson said.
Anderson will face Jared Wiggen in a winner-to-state match at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Bellingham Tennis Club in Fairhaven.
Miscues and mishits plagued Anderson from the onset. Balls sailing long and volleys into the net became the theme of the match for Anderson, who looked to have no answers for Romney's nearly error-free play.
"Brady just wasn't on his game today," Giller said. "He didn't really have a bounce in his step. ... He was just a bit off, and you can't really be a bit off against a guy like Ethan."
Bellingham's doubles pairing of Nick Nolan and Connor Thompson won both of their matches in straight sets to advance to a winner-to-state consolation match against Lake Washington's Lu and Jiminez at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Bellingham Tennis Club in Fairhaven.
Nolan and Thompson earned their spot in the second-place match after handily defeating Squalicum's Kevin Smiley and Drew Segren 6-2, 6-2.
"We wanted to make sure that we went out quickly, started fast and were both on the same page and be enthusiastic," Nolan said. "Today, I think we both played great as a team."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2238. For other Whatcom County sports news, follow us on twitter at bhampsports.
CLASS 2A DISTRICT CONSOLATION MATCHES
When: 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23
Where: Bellingham Tennis Club
CLASS 2A BI-DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
At Sehome High School
Ethan Romney (Sammamish) def. Jared Wiggen (Anacortes) 6-0, 6-1
Brady Anderson (Sehome) def. Nick Orlov (Lake Washington) 6-1, 6-0
Consolation second round
Nick Orlov (Lake Washington) def. Charlie Carmichael (Bellingham) 1-6, 6-0, 6-3
Jared Wiggen (Anacortes) def. Sam Humphreys (Sehome) 6-2, 6-0
Consolation third round
Jared Wiggen (Anacortes) def. Nick Orlov (Lake Washington) 7-5, 7-5
Ethan Romney (Sammamish) def. Brady Anderson (Sehome) 6-1, 6-1
Fergy Lu/Tristan Jiminez (Lake Washington) def. Liam Miszczak/Nate Pearsall (Bellingham) 1-6, 6-2, 6-2
Max Shmotolokha/Reece Gilbert (Sehome) def. Ben Mulder/ Dakota Davis (Lynden) 6-2, 6-1
Consolation second round
Kevin Smiley/Drew Segren (Squalicum) def. Ben Mulder/Dakota Davis (Lynden) 6-2, 1-6, 7-5
Nick Nolan/Connor Thompson (Bellingham) def. Liam Miszczak/Nate Pearsall (Bellingham) 6-2, 6-4
Consolation third round
Nick Nolan/Connor Thompson (Bellingham) def. Kevin Smiley/Drew Segren (Squalicum) 6-2, 6-2
Max Shmotolokha/Reece Gilbert (Sehome) def. Fergy Lu/Tristan Jiminez (Lake Washington) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1