High School Sports

‘Crazy connection’ binds Mulder, Davis

The only separation that exists between Ben Mulder and Dakota Davis is the actual blood that courses through their veins.

If not for that fact, the two Lynden High School seniors might as well be brothers, although that precise distinction matters little to either one.

To Mulder, Davis is his brother and vice-versa.

“We fight like brothers and love each other like brothers, and we play like brothers,” said Mulder, one half of Lynden’s top doubles pairing, in a phone interview. “We argue. He thinks he’s right about a lot of stuff. I know I’m right about a lot of stuff. … It’s just a crazy connection.”

Trey Ballard, Lynden’s boys’ tennis coach, has witnessed firsthand the Mulder-Davis friendship dating back to their sixth-grade year at Lynden Middle School.

It was the first time he met both.

Now, nearly seven years later, he’s seen the once spry, athletic 11-year-olds who knew as much about tennis as they did physics become his leading doubles pair, owning a 6-2 record entering play Friday, Oct. 3.

It isn’t by coincidence that their strong relationship off the court has translated to success on it. Ballard likened their movement to a sixth-sense of knowing where each other is going to be.

Mulder spoke of a telepathic-like connection with Davis, as they mirror each others movements from the baseline and at net.

Davis parroted his best friend.

“On the court, we don’t even need to call out anything anymore,” Davis said in a phone interview. “We know when we’re going to switch — where we’re going to go. … We have this bond that is tough to explain.”

It’s like the two are strung together with a taut rope, moving in unison, Ballard said, expressing how their communication is paramount, given neither owns an overpowering style.

And yet they win consistently — last year’s victory over Bellingham’s Nick Nolan and Connor Thompson in the 2A Bi-District Tournament serving as a springboard for what this year has already become.

That was the defining moment both spoke of — topping two talented players who twice had gotten the better of them in the regular season.

“We just went out to play basically like we had nothing to lose,” Mulder said. “We wanted to get (Thompson and Nolan) back.”

A first-set loss found them in a similar position — trailing the highly-touted club players. Davis said frustration kicked in facing the possibility of a third consecutive loss.

Davis remembered back to those precious moments in between the end of the first set and beginning of the second.

Mulder did, too.

“We both were riled up,” Mulder said.

“We just started calming down. We were telling each other we had nothing to lose, and we started playing for fun and relaxed,” Davis added.

Ballard watched, allowing their reliance on one another to guide them to a second-set victory, again facing adversity when they fell behind 4-2 in the decisive third set.

As Ballard has grown accustomed to seeing, Mulder and Davis overcame the deficit to take the final four games and the match, eventually finishing fifth in district as the No. 13 seed.

“That match, they looked at themselves and said, ‘We’re close,’” Ballard said in a phone interview.

This year is very much a product of the confidence that win harvested. Mulder and Davis believed they could compete with anyone, Ballard said.

And yet they haven’t lost what makes them so entertaining — their interaction on the court. The showmanship begins before the first point is ever played, Mulder and Davis mimicking what famous doubles pairing Bob and Mike Bryan do before their matches.

The Bryan brothers leap into one another chest-first high in the air.

Mulder and Davis have run toward one another as if to do the same thing, stopping, shaking their heads and simply shaking hands.

They have become a dominant force in the NWC this season, but Mulder emphasized the humble nature both seek to embody — the inspiration to their pre-match embrace.

“Big part of growing up in Lynden, both our parents are very humble,” Mulder said. “Instead of going for the chest bump and celebrating, just a hand shake will do.”