Lauren Smith and Andrea Clawson, who shared a state doubles title two years ago, both played like singles champions against each other.
Smith’s 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 win over Sehome teammate Clawson in a match-up of undefeated players was every bit that close in the finals of the Class 2A Northwest Sub-District Tournament on Monday, May 11.
The classy match at Sehome showed why district and state competition could be packed with suspense and worth watching.
“I definitely feel good about myself. Matches like this, win or lose, are definitely the reason I play tennis,” said Clawson, who has committed to play for Division III Occidental College in Southern California.
Clawson credited Smith, a junior who was state runner-up last year, with an outstanding effort. In turn, Smith said she benefited because Clawson pressed her to the limit.
“Lauren has definitely become a lot more patient,” said Clawson. “She can wait it out and go for a kill shot. She’s very strong. They (her shots) come fast and hard.”
Likewise, Smith said she enjoyed being tested so severely.
“Andrea played really well,” Smith said. “She really moved me around. She set up some good points.”
Sehome coach Bonna Giller watched the match with fascination.
“It was very good tennis,” Giller said. “There were very few unforced errors and lots of winners on both sides. That (tight) score does not surprise me at all.”
Giller was thrilled with her entire team.
“I’m extremely happy,” she said. “It couldn’t have played out better.”
In the doubles final, Sehome senior Natalie Knops and junior Andrea Zucchi handed Squalicum juniors Kim and Rachel Dorr a 6-3, 6-2 loss. It was the first setback of the season for the identical twins, who are playing their first postseason together.
In the consolation doubles semifinals, the winning teams, both from Whatcom County, clinched berths in the Class 2A District Tournament May 18-19 at Sehome.
Sehome seniors Taylor Harris and Simone Hall swept Blaine’s Mandy Hayes and Emily Roe 6-0, 6-0. Bellingham’s Mariah Miller, a senior, and Ellie Iwersen, a sophomore, claimed a 6-1, 6-1 win over Sehome’s promising team of Mia Zucchi, a freshman, and Hailey Holland, a sophomore, the youngest of the doubles hopefuls.
On Tuesday, May 12, at Sehome, Holland/Zucchi will meet Hayes/Roe for the fifth spot at districts.
Likewise, the consolation singles semifinals rewarded the winners with district berths as Sehome junior Ali Morrrow earned a solid 6-0, 6-2 win over Anacortes senior Nicole McInerney, and Sedro-Woolley’s Kassidee Beuse gained a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Anacortes’ Taylor Phillips.
Morrow and Beuse will play Tuesday for the third and fourth seeds at districts, while the Anacortes teammates will meet for the fifth spot at districts.
Knops and Andrea Zucchi, who went 4-0 in the tournament, faced the Dorr sisters for the first time.
“I think we came in a little nervous,” said Knops, considering the Dorrs had been unbeaten.
“We minimized our unforced errors,” Zucchi said, talking about how Knops “brought me up” with her spirit. “I think this really boosts our confidence, knowing we can keep consistency on our side of the net.”
Knops agreed, saying Zucchi makes both of them better.
“It helps that Andrea is so consistent,” said Knops, who has played only seven doubles matches with Zucchi and won six. “We feed off each other.”
The Dorrs said being tagged with their first loss was no disaster.
“I thought we didn’t play to our potential,” said Kim, who along with Rachel took an Advanced Placement physics exam Monday. “We started slow and never gained momentum.”
Rachel added: “I feel I could have been more mentally focused, but this is a wake-up call for us.”
“It’s nice knowing what it feels like to lose,” said Kim.
Bellingham’s Iwersen/Miller, coming off a semifinals loss to Knops/Zucchi, were gratified by how they came back in the consolation semifinals to gain a district spot.
“It really pumped us up (the loss) for today,” said Miller. “We had three or four match points in the second set, so we knew we have the potential to win.”
“Mariah played just great today,” said Iwersen. “She was super consistent. She had a lot of strong volleys and good poaches (shots for which the first player capable of reaching the ball takes responsibility).”
Miller gave sophomore Iwersen similar praise.
“Ellie’s got beyond (fine) potential,” Miller said. “I definitely think she can play in college.”
“Every shot we were trying to hit, we hit well technically,” said Bellingham coach Steve Chronister. “We competed very well.”
Sehome’s Morrow, fifth at state last year, said she felt relieved to clinch a district spot.
“I felt I played decently,” the articulate junior said. “It took patience and hard work to beat her (McInerney). It’s incredible to see all of our Sehome teammates play so well.”
Sehome’s Harris/Hall team felt the same way.
“We’re the odd ducklings in doubles,” Hall said with a laugh, referring to the fact that her partner last year, Lizzie Friesen, is studying in France and that Harris’ sister and erstwhile partner Madison has missed most of the season while recovering from an illness.
“Taylor attacks from the net while I attack from the baseline,” Hall said, explaining their success.
“I thought we played to the best of our ability,” Harris said of their shutout win.
Doubles: Natalie Knops/Andrea Zucchi* (Sehome) def. Kim Dorr/Rachel Dorr* (Squalicum) 6-3, 6-2.
*denotes district qualifier