Five Washougal High School boys are playing in the district tennis tournament, Friday and Saturday at the Mint Valley Raquet Club in Longview, for a shot at state.
All five are seniors, which makes Eric and Linda Balholm proud to be their coaches.
“None of these kids were tennis players before they joined the team four years ago,” said Eric Balholm. “It means they loved the sport enough to stick with it, and now all the hard work is paying off.”
The Panthers doubled their pleasure at the 2A sub-district tournament Saturday, at R.A. Long High School in Longview. Nico Lima-Severich defeated Jeff Koss of Mark Morris 6-0, 6-0 for the singles championship. It was the same story against R.A. Long’s Tanner Ackerly and Sean Sheppard. The Washougal foreign exchange student from Bolivia did not give a game away in the tournament.
“He knew that if he didn’t lose a game, he would get treated to Panda Express. I guess there are three boys who owe him a dinner,” Balholm said. “We all got to see the Americanizing of Nico. It’s great having him be a part of our team. He’s fit in very well.”
Senior co-captains Eyan Cagle and Patrick McCarthy captured the doubles championship for the Panthers. They topped Mark Morris’ Ethan Winters and Tyler Stewart 6-2, 6-4 in the championship match.
“We kind of got excited when we were up 5-2. All of the sudden, it was 5-4,” Cagle said. “We just had to settle down, and regain focus.”
“Eyan got his serves in, and I got my volleys in,” McCarthy said. “It all worked.”
Cagle and McCarthy also beat teammates Eric Ackerman and Jacob Eagle 6-3, 6-0 in the semifinals and R.A. Long’s Wayne Ogle and Anton Stalick 6-0, 6-0 in the first round.
“I will remember playing hard in the cold, and managing to win in two sets like we have done all season,” McCarthy said. “That caps it all off.”
“It’s pretty cool to be sub-district champs,” Cagle added. “We just want to enjoy the moment and get ready for the next step.”
Ackerman and Eagle took third place in doubles. They finished off the R.A. Long teams Conner Jolly and Thomas Pitts (6-2, 6-4), and Jeffrey Ashford and Josh Johnson (7-5, 6-4), in the consolation bracket. Ackerman and Eagle led Winters and Stewart 7-5, 5-4 in a battle for second place, but the two Monarchs rallied for a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 victory.
“We’ll just have to go to districts and beat them there,” Eagle said.
“As seniors playing in our last sub-districts, it was a good way to go out,” Ackerman said. “Even though we lost, we played strong. And, we hope to be even better at districts.”
Balholm remembers those years when Washougal did not win a tennis match, but this fall the varsity and junior varsity boys went undefeated in league. He said it is a tribute to those Panthers who live and breathe tennis.
“Not only are they good tennis players, but they are also a fun group of boys to be around,” Balholm said. “They all enjoy each other’s company, and they’re all good friends. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”