This is the Golden Age of girls’ tennis in the city of Bellingham.
In fact, local coaches think tennis is so strong that not every state-worthy local player made it to state.
Defending state champion Sehome capped what coach Bonna Giller called “one heck of a tournament” for her team by sweeping the singles and doubles titles in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Tuesday, May 19, while sending six girls to state.
Unbeaten Mariners junior Lauren Smith (21-0) repeated as singles champion with a 6-2, 6-1 win over senior teammate Andrea Clawson on their home courts in a rematch of last year’s district final.
In the doubles final, Sehome seniors Simone Hall and Taylor Harris earned a 6-3, 7-5 win over Squalicum twins Rachel and Kim Dorr in a rousing match packed with enthusiasm and energy on both sides.
The third state spots went to Sehome senior Natalie Knops and junior Andrea Zucchi in doubles and to Sedro-Woolley sophomore Kassidee Beuse in singles.
In all, with eight locals headed to state in the wake of Sehome’s record nine last season, an unprecedented 17 Bellingham city players qualified over a two-year span.
Several coaches and players said it was a shame that the talent-laden Northwest District, which has 12 tennis-playing schools, had to be allocated only three spots in singles and three in doubles among 16 first-round state entrants in both categories.
“It just might be that (the Golden Age),” said longtime Bellingham coach Steve Chronister, who has sent many solid players to state but has never seen anything like this season and last year. “The last two years, local girls’ talent is as good as it’s ever been.”
In many seasons, Bellingham senior Mariah Miller and sophomore Ellie Iwersen would have made it in doubles, but this year they finished fourth with a 6-3, 6-1 loss to Sehome’s Knops/Zucchi.
“The match was more competitive than the score indicates,” said Knops, acknowledging that the Bellingham team was state-worthy. “The scores went to deuce uncountable times.”
In a three-hour marathon for third place, Beuse denied Sehome junior Ali Morrow a return to state, where she finished fifth as a sophomore. Beuse rallied to win 1-6, 7-6 (0) 6-0 over Morrow, who lost a long match-ending 10-8 tiebreaker to Clawson in the semifinals the day before.
Zucchi will be Sehome’s only state newcomer, and the power-hitting junior couldn’t have been more grateful.
“I watched at state last year (as a sophomore) and cheered them on (to a record point total),” said Zucchi, acknowledging she was inspired by last year’s Mariners. “I worked really hard to get here. I just told myself I needed to keep practicing and I hoped it would pay off.”
It certainly did. In fact, Knops praised Zucchi’s steadiness.
“I think Andrea really stayed consistent,” Knops said. “She hit some great overheads. When I saw how many good doubles teams were entered, I was a little intimidated (at first). And Ellie and Mariah fought hard all the way.”
Smith’s lone loss over a two-season span was in last year’s state title match. Now the steady junior is hoping she’ll have Clawson as an opponent in the finals for the third consecutive week.
“We have definitely made each other better,” Smith said, acknowledging the challenges of Clawson, who is Sehome’s co-captain along with Hall. “For sure” (Smith wants Clawson to make the state finals). “It’s always a fun match with her.”
Likewise, the Hall/Harris team said the Dorrs — juniors who are identical twins and bring ferocious enthusiasm to their matches — were a most worthy title opponent.
“The Dorrs are fun to play against,” said Hall, noting that she and Harris are now 1-1 in the postseason against the Storm duo.
Harris/Hall snapped a 3-3 tie in the first set and won the last three games. It was different in the second set, in which the Dorrs fell behind 3-1 but eventually battled to a 5-5 tie before Harris/Hall prevailed in the last two games.
“We didn’t ever doubt one another,” said Harris.
“No, it was always a positive feeling,” said Hall.
Kim Dorr said every match against Harris and Hall “could go either way.”
“We have such a strong district,” Kim said. “We just have so much talent here.”
In the consolation singles semifinals, Morrow eliminated Nicole McInerney of Anacortes 6-1, 6-0, and Beuse ousted Lakewood’s Christina Barber 6-1, 6-1. It was at that point that several coaches and players agreed it was too bad that either Morrow or Beuse would not get to state.
Morrow tactically moved Beuse all over the court, forcing frequent backhands. Beuse, however, was relentless and just seemed to get stronger and stronger. Beuse was nearly perfect in the second-set tiebreaker before sweeping the third set.
In the consolation doubles semifinals, Iwersen/Miller eliminated Granite Falls’ Hailey Arndt/Katelyn Gresli 6-2, 6-0, and Knops/Zucchi took out Shorecrest’s Rachel Stevens and Lauren Rutter.
The state tournament will be held as usual at the University of Washington on May 29-30.
CLASS 2A NORTHWEST DISTRICT GIRLS’ TENNIS
Singles final: Lauren Smith (Sehome) def. Andrea Clawson (Sehome) 6-2, 6-1.
Doubles final: Taylor Harris/Simone Hall (Sehome) def. Kim Dorr/Rachel Dorr (Squalicum) 6-3, 7-5.
Consolation singles semifinals: Ali Morrow (Sehome) def. Nicole McKiernan (Anacortes) 6-1, 6-0; Kassidee Beuse (Sedro-Woolley) def. Christina Barber (Lakewood) 6-1, 6-1.
Consolation finals (winner to state): Beuse def. Morrow 1-6, 7-6 (0), 6-0.
Consolation doubles semifinals: Natalie Knops/Andrea Zucchi (Sehome) def. Rachel Stevens/Lauren Rutter (Shorecrest) 6-3, 6-1; Mariah Miller/Ellie Iwersen (Bellingham) def. Hailey Arndt/Katelyn Gresli (Granite Falls) 6-2, 6-0.
lation doubles finals (winner to state): Knops/Zucchi def. Miller/Iwersen 6-3, 6-1.