All it takes is one look to realize how different Lynden tennis doubles playing partners Alex Schulhouser and Kelly Hewson are.
With her long arms and skyscraping 5-foot-11 height, Schulhouser is an imposing presence. Hewson, on the other hand, isn't as daunting at 5-foot-2.
But on the court, they use their differences to their advantage. Schulhouser often finds herself at the net, while Hewson uses her speed to patrol the backline.
The duo's stature may be their most noticeable difference, but their height discrepancy only scratches the surface when it comes to how well they balance each other out.
"We are the definition of yin and yang," Schulhouser said.
Lynden coach Trey Ballard said Schulhouser and Hewson's differences extend to their personalities, as well.
Schulhouser provides the fiery attitude, while Hewson remedies it with a calming, reassuring presence.
"I think Alex is the witty one," Ballard said. "If someone has to put coach Ballard in his place, it's Alex. Kelsey just kinds of looks over her shoulder and smiles at it."
For all the pair's differences, though, they have formed quite a combination on the tennis court. That's what a 10-year friendship dating back to preschool will produce.
Schulhouser and Hewson said rather than Ballard putting them together when they started their tennis careers, they gravitated toward each other thanks to their extensive background.
Both played as freshman, but it wasn't until last year that the doubles team began playing together on the same side of the court.
"It definitely helps me," said Schulhouser, referring to Hewson's advice when she's getting frustrated during a match. "Freshman year I started playing singles, and I would get frustrated after games I lost. With Kelsey here, she took the positive side. She would say, 'Oh, we lost, but, hey, we can get better.'"
And Schulhouser and Hewson have done just that.
Ballard raved about how bright the pair is and how they make subtle adjustments to improve each match and during practice, too.
"That's always the fun part of my job," said Ballard of witnessing player development. "We all work on skills every match, and that's very important. They are very intelligent and very cerebral on the court. Every match they are learning and getting better."
Their dedication to improve has been particularly paramount this season.
Following a year of logging their first varsity action as Lynden's No. 3 doubles team, they have been selected by Ballard to play No. 1 doubles this year.
The spike in talent has been drastic, but they've been up to the challenge.
"Alex and I just want to have more wins than losses," Hewson said. "That's our goal for the year."
It hasn't taken long this spring to see how Schulhouser's and Hewson's on-court chemistry has worked to their favor. During the team's season opener, the duo were the only Lions who scored in a 6-1 loss.
"A few days ago we played Ferndale, and we were down 3-0," Hewson said, "and I feel we both were down, but we came back and won."
Any tennis coach will admit a player's mental makeup serves as a large part of one's success, and Schulhouser and Hewson own a major advantage heading into every match with their ability to effectively maintain a steady mental equilibrium.
The key component, Ballard said, to the duo's ability to play poised is laughter.
"The humor is where they pull each other out," he said. "Alex is a comedian, and Kelsey starts to laugh to calm them down. If they win or lose, they'll get over it right away. We are really keeping it light out there."
Ballard considers this spring a rebuilding year after the Lions lost their top seniors off a team that went 2-12 overall. Even though Schulhouser and Hewson made a sizeable leap in the strength of opposition they're now facing, they figure to be an integral piece to the Lions' future success.
And the experience they'll receive will prepare them well.
"It is absolutely crucial," said Ballard of gaining a familiarity of the strong teams the pair is playing. "They need to take (as many) matches as they can. It's fun to watch them grow and see them play great competition."
While both Schulhouser and Hewson are working to improve their games, they already seem to have found a recipe for success in communication and team chemistry.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.