A couple of weeks before the start of the fall boys tennis season, Ferndale coach Rudy Vendiola admits he wasn’t sure what type of team the Golden Eagles would be putting on the court in 2016.
“I had one-third of my team that I wasn’t sure would be playing this year,” Vendiola said. “Three guys – my No. 1 singles player, my No. 2 singles player and my No. 3 singles player – all lost their mothers shortly before the start of the season. All three of them were introduced to the game by their mothers. I would have completely understood if they had decided not to turn out. They talked about it and decided to come back and play, which is commendable, but I didn’t know exactly what to expect.”
What Vendiola and Ferndale ended up getting was the best tennis season in school history.
All three players turned out and helped the Golden Eagles to a program-best 12-2 record this fall, with losses only to NWC champion Sehome.
As if that weren’t enough, two of the three players who lost their mother – brothers Tommy and Cavan Lyons – became the first Ferndale doubles team to win a district doubles title in program history. With that crown, the duo will head to the Class 3A State Tournament Friday and Saturday in Kennewick.
I can’t imagine not playing. I never even though about it. ... All of us play tennis, and it’s a way for us to stay connected to our mother.
They are two of four boys and girls players Whatcom County will be sending to the 3A state tournament, while 10 players earned trips to the Class 2A State Tournament at the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle.
According to Tommy, who served as a team captain this year, not turning out for tennis was something neither he nor Cavan ever thought about after their mother, Carla Lyon, died early last summer following a battle with cancer.
“I think it would be disrespectful to do that,” Tommy said. “I can’t imagine not playing. I never even though about it. ... All of us play tennis, and it’s a way for us to stay connected to our mother.”
In fact, both Tommy and Cavan said the family atmosphere they got from their Golden Eagle teammates helped them throughout the season, as did the support they received from the community.
Carla introduced Tommy and Cavan to the game when they old enough to walk and hold a racket, and they spent a large portion of their lives on the courts after that.
“We learned most of what we know from her,” Cavan said. “She ran the junior program at Bellingham Tennis Club, where we play. It was nice to have her always right there to give us instruction.”
We learned most of what we know from her. She ran the junior program at Bellingham Tennis Club, where we play. It was nice to have her always right there to give us instruction.
All that work from an early age certainly has paid off, Vendiola said, as both have strong, consistent strokes, they communicate well with each other and they know how to finish off points.
They also know how to work well together, pick each other up after a difficult point and make in-match adjustments.
“Their best quality is their love of the game,” Vendiola said. “They like to go out and hit. They can hit for hours. We have practice, and then they’ll go out and hit some more.”
That’s extremely important, considering they haven’t pulled on a Ferndale uniform since the district tournament wrapped up in October. For the seven months since, the Lyons boys have played and practiced together at least four days a week, Cavan said.
And Vendiola said he’s seen a difference since he was able to start coaching them again 2 1/2 weeks ago, as both have grown as players since the district tournament.
“I think we have all the tools we need to go out and win and be successful at state,” Tommy said. “Now it’s just a matter of us going out and using them correctly.”
She sent so many players she worked with to the state tournament. It’s nice that we get to go, ourselves.
They’ll try to do that against some of the best high school players in the state in an unfamiliar climate, where temperatures could be pushing 90 degrees and winds could gust up to 20 or 30 mph.
“We’ve got to stick to our game,” Cavan said. “We’ve got to minimize unforced errors and dictate play. We need to hit with a lot of pace and dictate points. That’s what got us through the district tournament, and that’s what we need to do to be successful at state.”
And however the next two days turn out in Kennewick, Tommy and Cavan know that their mom would be pleased with what they have accomplished.
“She sent so many players she worked with to the state tournament over the years,” Cavan said. “It’s nice that we get to go, ourselves.”
Whatcom County state tennis qualifiers
▪ Colin Weller (Squalicum)
▪ Tommy Lyons and Cavan Lyons (Ferndale)
▪ Catherine Michelutti (Squalicum)
▪ Shane Lynette (Sehome)
▪ Darren Ma / William Zhang (Sehome)
▪ Tessa Tapmongkol (Sehome)
▪ Sidney Balfour / Ava McIlvaine (Sehome)
▪ Sophia Lawrence / Alice Hiebert (Bellingham)
▪ Ellie Iwersen / Keara Kintzele (Bellingham)