Call it an unprecedented example of local state-level tennis excellence.
Sehome repeated as girls’ team champion, Squalicum twins Kim and Rachel Dorr won the girls’ doubles title, and nine local singles and doubles girls’ and boys’ entries — all from Sehome, Squalicum and Bellingham — claimed medals at the Class 2A State Championships at the University of Washington’s Nordstrom Tennis Center.
Sehome’s girls scored 33 points, not far off last year’s record total of 41, for what was definitely an all-time high of 74 points in consecutive seasons combined.
“That 33 points might be the second best ever,” said Sehome coach Bonna Giller, who scored a verbal ace when she added, “This is special, the year we had.”
“The girls played so hard all season, to win conference, district, state,” she said. “We had high expectations; we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We lost a couple of (last year’s key) players (to study abroad and to injury). I am just so extremely proud of them.”
Sehome’s No. 1 singles player, junior Lauren Smith, was runner-up for the second consecutive year while earning her third straight state medal, but her teammates and coaches agreed she responded to adversity like a champion.
Smith won her first three state matches in straight sets, running her record to 24-0, before running into precocious freshman Danya Wallis of North Kitsap, ranked 24th in the Northwest’s U16 championship level.
Smith lost 5-7, 6-3, 2-6, but she agreed her sensational second-set comeback displayed the potential of the Sehome junior, who is obviously far more powerful than she was in her first two seasons.
“I like that I came back with a lot of energy,” said Smith. “I thought I played well. It was fun, probably the most fun match I’ve had this year. I have gotten stronger and I stayed aggressive. Now the three medals make me want to get a first-place medal.”
Anyone who saw the power strokes and consistent placements Smith made in the second set would not take her chances lightly next year, even against the highly athletic Wallis.
Smith trailed 2-5 in the opening set when she just began to unload on power shots, but Wallis displayed her own strength and endurance in the third set, taking a 5-2 advantage.
Coach Joe O’Brien confirmed that the Dorr sisters claimed the first state title for either girls or boys in Squalicum history (see separate story), but Sehome seniors Simone Hall and Taylor Harris did not succumb easily as the Dorrs prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 — their third three-set win in four state matches over two days.
“They were really on their game,” Hall said of the Dorrs, who went 8-2 in the postseason — with six three-set matches — after an unbeaten regular season.
“I was really proud to play with Simone,” said Harris, who had three different doubles partners during the season because of illness and injury to others. “I really believe we give it everything we had. We left it all on the court.”
Sehome senior Natalie Knops and junior Andrea Zucchi lost to the Dorrs in the semifinals 6-2, 6-2. But the Knops/Zucchi team came back to take the third-place medal with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Ridgefield’s Sarah Kaufman and Sophie Bird.
“As a freshman, I had never played tennis, but it looked like fun,” said Knops. “And it was always fun for me at Sehome.”
Zucchi, who was in the stands cheering as a sophomore, could hardly believe she was on the court, winning three of four matches and a medal.
“Natalie was really helpful, always patient and uplifting,” said the affable Zucchi of Knops, who earned her second state doubles medal. “Natalie really energizes me. I think we really grew, especially in our net play.”
Knops praised her younger partner’s poise, saying, “Andrea kept me cool. Her ground strokes were on fire and her line shots were great. She brought a lot of intensity.”
Sehome senior Andrea Clawson, rebounding beautifully from a 6-4, 0-6, 0-6 loss to eventual state champio Willis the day before, won twice in straight sets and took the fourth-place match 6-4, 6-3 over Clarkston’s Paige Rohrbach.
“This was my last high school match and I wanted to make it really good,” said Clawson. “This was the best I could hope for. She’s an excellent player. To get this far in singles (with a 3-1 state record and an 8-3 postseason mark) is a real accomplishment, especially after last year (1-2 at state). I feel great about this … I think that experience last year allowed me to play this well.”
Clawson was especially pleased with all the hard work on her serves paid off.
“I had very few double faults. This was my best serving of the season, maybe my whole career. (And) To be a co-captain for two years, I don’t think there’s a more supportive or talented group around.”
In boys’ competition, Squalicum’s Drew Segren and Kevin Smiley took the fourth place doubles with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Selah’s Othon Hamill and Lucas Mahugh, while Bellingham’s Nathan Pearsall and Logan Schilder earned the sixth place medal in a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Ephrata’s third-place Stnn Monson and Garner Sears. It was the first state appearance for both teams.
Sehome juniors Brady Anderson, taking his third consecutive state medal, and Max Schmotolokha earned fifth and sixth, respectively. Anderson won three in a row after losing in the first round Friday to eventual finalist Tye Loan of Olympic, while Schmotolokha lost to repeat state champion Ty Gentry 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals and then fell to Shorecrest’s Nishaant Limaye 3-6, 6-2, 3-6 in the third/sixth place match despite a stirring second-set comeback.
Squalicum’s Segren, a first baseman, was in Yakima for the Storm’s state semifinal baseball loss to Selah on Friday. But when he and Smiley won their consolation doubles semifinal, Segren stayed in Seattle to give Smiley and himself a medal shot — and they took full advantage.
“Neither of us gets mad at each other,” said Segren. “I planned to stay here if we won the first set. It just feels great to help my doubles partner.”
“It’s definitely a dream,” Smiley said, to which Segren responded, “I was proud of Kevin. Even if he was struggling, he always stayed positive.”
Smiley praised Segren for his excellence with overhead shots, while Segren said “Kevin had some spectacular shots down the line.”
The Pearsall/Schilder medal was especially noteworthy because Pearsall has been recruited for baseball at St. Martin’s and the 7-foot Schilder will play basketball at Whatcom Community College. They have played every doubles match in four years at Bellingham.
“I’m stoked about winning a medal,” said Schilder, while Pearsall said “our last loss was bittersweet because we played so well Friday (in two dominant wins).”
Schmotolokha left the court feeling good about his growth despite the loss.
“I’ve grown a lot and improved a lot,” said Schmotolokha, who has a 4.0 grade-point average. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, because Gentry is so good, by far the best I’ve ever played. But it sure would have been nice to take that last match.”
Anderson played very well after his first-round loss to Loan.
“Loan is crazy good, but I told myself that even if I lost to him in the first round, I could still definitely battle hard to win the last three.”
Anderson did just that.
“I felt I stayed calm and collected and mentally tough (all the way through),” said Anderson.
Sedro-Woolley’s Kassidee Beuse finished fifth in girls’ singles, giving the Northwest Conference a 10-for-10 record in state medals won.