Boys' tennis players fall short at state


SEATTLE - Max Shmotolokha said a loss in the Class 2A state doubles final with fellow Sehome sophomore Reece Gilbert provided the best possible motivation.

"I just know I'm going to work harder than I've ever done before," said Shmotolokha, like Gilbert a talented singles player who isn't sure if he'll play doubles again. "I have a lot to work on."

Gilbert and Shmotolokha had a dominant tournament that made coach Bonna Giller proud and helped Sehome to a close third place in the team standings with 14 points, behind Capital's 17 and Lindbergh's 16.

The young Sehome standouts fell to Tacoma Washington's Daniel Yu and Josh Rasmus 6-1, 6-0 in the finals after taking their third consecutive state tournament straight-sets win in the semifinals, 6-4, 6-3 over Lindbergh's Sam Bayna and Jeremiah Bayna.

"I thought playing doubles was the right thing to do (since only two singles spots were allocated in his district tournament last fall)," said Gilbert.

Shmotolokha said, "I wouldn't have been surprised (if he had been told they would become one of the state's youngest doubles teams). "I thought the break (between fall play and spring state action) was good for us."

Gilbert, however, said he felt surprised to be in a state title match so soon.

"I didn't think I would make it," he said, talking of his expectations last fall when the season started. But then, even though he went unbeaten at No. 3 singles, he didn't yet know what an effective doubles player he could become.

Whatcom County's other doubles entry, Bellingham junior Connor Thompson and sophomore Nick Nolan, were enthusiastic over their showing in a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Lindbergh's Bayna brothers in the third/sixth place match. The Thompson/Nolan team lost in the semifinals to Yu and Rasmus 6-4, 7-5.

Sehome sophomore Brady Anderson, Whatcom County's only singles entry, represented himself well by taking the sixth-place medal in a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Lindbergh's Alan Kwiatoski. Anderson, who won both his matches Friday, had the tough luck to face eventual tournament champion Ty Gentry of Capital in a 6-0, 6-0 loss in the semifinals earlier Saturday.

Bellingham coach Steve Chronister laughed when he overheard Thompson and Nolan being questioned about whether they would remain a doubles team next season.

"Do you think I'm going to mess with that? No way!" said Chronister, referring to what fine teamwork the young pair displayed throughout the tournament.

Nolan and Thompson turned in a variety of dazzling shots, especially for a first-year doubles team, but not quite enough to match their exceptionally athletic opponents.

"To come from where they came from with so little experience was just amazing," said Chronister. "Dynamic is definitely the word I would use to describe how they played. Connor and Nick were just dynamic. Their mental toughness is just amazing."

Nolan completed a remarkable four consecutive days of state tournament pressure, having helped the Red Raiders claim the two-day Class 2A state golf title Wednesday and Thursday.

"That was a great experience," Nolan said. "I thought we just played great. Now, I'm just exhausted."

Thompson said the third/sixth match "could be the best match we've played together." The pair was up 5-4 in a second-set comeback, only to see the Bayna brothers win the final three sets.

"Nick and I have great chemistry, and we feed off each other with our energy," said Thompson, also an outstanding tournament-level water skier. "We did well for two state rookies."

Anderson was keenly aware of what a talented player he faced in the semifinals.

"Ty Gentry (whose athleticism awed the crowd) is well above me. He's a top 40 guy in the country," Anderson said. "So you can't get caught up (in the situation). You just have to improve as much as you can."

Anderson, like his Sehome teammates, expressed the need to work as hard as possible to fulfill his ambition of playing college tennis.

"Endurance, footwork, conditioning, my serve," he said, ticking off areas he is determined to improve in. "I was somewhat disappointed in my serves. They were definitely off today. My serve can be a weapon some days, but today I wasn't consistent."

Perhaps so, but for a school with three such talented sophomores, the boys' program at Sehome figures to have more than its share of great days in the next couple of years.

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