Before Bellingham’s tennis season concluded last spring, coach Steve Chronister, a forward thinker, concocted in his mind who he felt would make a tremendous doubles pairing the following year.
Sophomore standout Ellie Iwersen joined forces a year ago with now graduated player Catie Welch, making a deep postseason run only to fall one place short of a Class 2A State Tournament doubles berth. Meanwhile, senior Mariah Miller showed her savvy and skill in singles play, reaching the final eight of sub-districts.
Even as the two ventured on their separate postseason paths, Chronister forecast, the way their games complemented each other, they’d soon be together.
“Chron is always preparing,” Miller said, “and last year the season hadn’t even finished and he gave us the idea that next year we would be playing doubles together, and that’s what happened.”
And Iwersen and Miller fully embraced the idea.
They haven’t always played doubles this spring. Chronister mixes them up between singles and doubles, but when they have shared the same court, they’ve shown why their aspirations to reach the Class 2A State Tournament are real.
They got off to a great start during the first day of the Class 2A Sub-District Tournament on Friday, May 8, dismissing Anacortes’ Lali Kushner and Natalie Wilson with a brisk 6-0, 6-1 victory, at Western Washington University’s tennis courts.
After a quick first set, the Bellingham duo dropped the first game of set No. 2 before reeling off six straight games.
“I thought it was good,” Iwersen said. “It’s nice to have that (first win) under our belts, now heading to the next couple of rounds knowing it’s double elimination.”
Next for Iwersen and Miller is a quarterfinal match against Blaine’s Mandy Hayes and Emily Roe, and the Red Raiders will be looking to use their strong chemistry to propel them further into the postseason.
It wasn’t out of happenstance Chronister envisioned Iwersen and Miller winning matches side-by-side. He saw the connection they could have and how their games could complement each other.
“She is really calm-headed,” Iwersen said of Miller. “Sometimes I can get a little too excited or too upset when we are down, and so she is really good at calming me down and bringing me back to, ‘OK, let’s get focused.”
After navigating the postseason bracket alone the past two seasons, Miller’s been thrilled to have a partner who counters her strengths and weaknesses so well.
“We really balance each other out,” Miller said. “Ellie, she can hit any shot that any other tennis player can here, if not better. With me, it’s just consistency. I’m not going to hit winners all the time. We just have opposite games where if my shots go weird Ellie is there to help coach me with that. If mentally Ellie is going somewhere else, then I’m there to help her. It’s just the perfect balance.”
That much was evident Friday.
Kushner and Wilson had no answer for Iwersen and Miller the final six games. The Red Raiders were so dominant, the Seahawks players seemed to accept their fate in the final games, noticeably moving slower to balls than they did early on.
Blaine’s Dolk adjusting to 2A move
Borderites’ No. 1 singles player Saskia Dolk was the district champion last year competing in Class 1A, but now she’ll have her hands full as she got her Class 2A Sub-District Tournament underway Friday.
Dolk scored a hard-earned 7-6 (3), 6-1 win over Burlington-Edison’s Jaycy Cammock in the first round after receiving an opening-round bye. She next takes on Sedro-Woolley’s Kassidee Beuse, a girl Dolk’s lost to twice this season.
“I think it went well,” Dolk said of her first-day win. “(Cammock) kind of had a similar style to me in playing, but I sort of got my act together in the second set and came through.”
Dolk, a senior, moved from No. 2 singles to Blaine’s top singles player this spring and is hoping the experience against stiffer competition will help her excel this postseason.
Sehome’s girls tennis team began the Class 2A Sub-District Tournament in impressive style.
Lauren Smith, Ali Morrow and Andrea Clawson advanced in singles play without dropping a game, and Mia Zucchi and Hailey Holland, Taylor Harris and Simone Hall and Natalie Knops and Andrea Zucchi also advanced in doubles play.
Squalicum doubles team Kim Dorr and Rachel Dorr, who are yet to lose a doubles match this season, won 6-0, 6-0 in their first match and face Mia Zucchi and Holland next.
CLASS 2A Sub-District Tournament