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Locals struggle in boys tennis district championships

Three Whatcom County players fall in title matches, still have chance to reach state

Bellingham coach Steve Chronister talks to Jacob Kuhn during a break between sets Monday
Bellingham coach Steve Chronister talks to Jacob Kuhn during a break between sets Monday
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

Bellingham and Sehome boys tennis players each had chances to clinch state tournament berths on Monday, Oct. 16, but both teams in district title matches lost on the third day of the 2A District 1 tournament at the Bellingham Training and Tennis Club.

The three players that lost — Bellingham doubles team Caleb Imbach and Nate Lyon, as well as Sehome singles player Harley Kaiser — will have another chance to qualify for state in the final consolation matches on the fifth day of the tournament.

Kaiser was defeated by Archbishop Murphy’s Cole Balen in two sets (6-4, 7-5) in the 2A District 1 singles championship, knocking Kaiser into the consolation bracket.

photo  Sehome’s Harley Kaiser pumps his fist after scoring a point. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

After losing the first, Kaiser led 5-1 early in the second set before Balen won six consecutive games to end the match. Even if Kaiser, a sophomore, doesn’t reach state, he made it further than last season when he was bounced in the second round of the tournament.

Kaiser, who traveled with last year’s Sehome team that swept all three 2A state titles, will play Bellingham’s Jacob Kuhn or Sedro-Woolley’s Owen Vellegas in the consolation final for the second state berth at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Sehome High School.

“That was really solid play from [Balen], so I’m not sure what I would do at the moment [if] I came up against him again,” Kaiser said. “I think if I’m going to go to state [I want] just a fun environment there, and it’s good to play better players — I’m always looking forward to it.”

Imbach and Lyon lost in two sets (6-1, 6-3) to Anacortes’ Sawyer Nichols and Andrew Van Egdom in the 2A District 1 doubles championship.

photo  Bellingham’s Nate Lyon serves in the doubles district championship. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

The Bellingham pair were the only other Whatcom County athletes in a district championship match, and reaching that stage was already an achievement after they were eliminated in the first round of the tournament last season.

“It would be pretty massive,” Lyon said of their remaining chances to go to state. “I don’t play a lot outside of school, so it would be pretty sweet to go.”

Lyon and Imbach each said they learned they needed to celebrate each other’s points more — something Nichols and Van Egdom did to build momentum.

“It was mostly just the massive serve,” Lyon said of the difference in the match. “Their attitude when playing and winning a point was, I don’t know, it didn’t get in our heads, but it’s just a good attitude to have.”

photo  Bellingham’s Jacob Kuhn squares up the ball. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

Following the loss, Imbach and Lyon will have one more chance to advance to the 2A state tournament when they face Burlington-Edison’s Spencer Atkinson and Kounosuke Wilcox or Anacortes’ Alexander Tull and Ty Swapp at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Sehome High School.

Bellingham’s Kuhn, who reached the 2A state consolation semifinals last season, kept his season alive with a two-set (6-4, 6-3) win over Sehome’s Justin Barras. 

Kuhn must defeat Sedro-Woolley’s Vellegas at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at Sehome High School to face Kaiser in the singles consolation final for the second state berth.

“I’ve been losing to [Vellegas] a lot recently, but I just have to try to play well and stay confident and I’ll see what I can do,” Kuhn said.

This story was updated at 9:21 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17 to include more information about matches on days four and five of the 2A District 1 tennis tournament.

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