The moment that stands out most to Squalicum prep boys’ tennis player Kevin Smiley is bittersweet.
Last season in the Class 2A State Championships, Drew Segren and Smiley got to walk off the court as winners, topping a duo from Selah in three sets for a fourth-place finish.
“It was a pretty big moment,” Smiley said in a phone interview. “We smashed the ball and gave each other a hug, knowing we were never going to play together again but we accomplished what we wanted to.”
Segren is now graduated but don’t expect Smiley’s name to drop from among the top in the Northwest Conference.
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The senior has taken over captain duties at Squalicum and will play singles during the regular season — he finished 7-3 as a single last season and 15-4 overall — before likely teaming with talented freshman Colin Weller in the postseason.
“Colin beats me all the time,” Smiley said. “It’d be really good to play with him.”
Despite losing key players like Segren, the infusion of young talent and the continual growth of Cole Herdman and Liam Brownlie have Smiley confident his team can challenge the powerhouses that are Sehome and Bellingham.
Personally, though, Smiley’s goal this year is to play well at districts and hopefully make state in doubles. He’s not looking over putting up a good regular season record in singles as well. He’s already 1-0 as a single and 1-0 as a doubles player after the first week.
“We (the seniors) definitely want to make it memorable,” Smiley said of his final high school season. “Every senior wants to leave a legacy.”
As captain, Smiley certainly has a greater impact than just as a player, something that’s become obvious early in the season.
“I would say it’s more of not how well you play but transitioning into being a leader and making sure everybody practices,” Smiley said. “Before we kind of more joked around. Now we have to get things done. We can still have fun, though. Squalicum is known for having fun but still getting things done.”
Smiley doesn’t have any plans to play at a varsity level in college — his main sport he says is soccer, but injuries in the spring have forced him to focus more on tennis, which he’s played since taking part in the Storm tennis camps from third to seventh grade, he said.
Those soccer injuries have occassionally affected his time on the court — his back injury last season limited his summer practice so he started off rusty at the beginning of last season — but this season Smiley is injury-free heading into the year.
“I’m feeling a lot better than previous years,” said Smiley, who added that his backhand has gotten more consistent to go with his strong serve.