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VHS tennis starts strong
By ERIC HORSTING
The Pirates varsity boys tennis team won three times last week and is 4-1 going into a stretch of four matches that started yesterday.
The team opened the week defeating Eatonville 5-0 last Monday, and on Wednesday the Pirates overcame Steilacoom 3-2.
Against Northwest Christian, which coach Jake Dillon described as one of the lesser teams in the Nisqually League, the netsters won 5-0 on Friday.
Dillon said that he used two of his younger players, sophomore Max Westerman and junior David Salonen in a doubles match in which they defeated the two best Northwest Christian players in a close match. Vashon won the first set, 6-2, lost the second in a 7-2 tie-breaker 7-6, and won the super tie-breaker 10-7 to take the match.
Senior Max Burnham and junior Ty Lazarus won their singles matches 6-0, 6-0, and Josh Bacchus took the third singles match 6-1, 6-0.
The fifth match was a doubles won by Sjors Steneker and Scott Smith, 6-0, 6-0.
Other players on the team are Eli Weston, Michael Butz and Joe Gilmour.
Dillon said that team entered a crucial period on Monday. The team will meet Charles Wright, Fife, Washington and Cascade Christian all within seven days.
He thinks Wright, Fife and Cascade (to which the team lost in its second match on Sept. 12), will be formidable opponents.
Since Dillon began his Vashon tennis coaching career three years ago, the team has gone 11-1 (winning at state with Michael Serko and Cam Bard), 13-1 (fifth in state) and last year 6-8 (making it to districts).
Dillon is quick to point out the importance of coach Eva Lou Grimsley’s effect on the team.
“She is really crucial to this whole scenario,” said Dillon. “Most of these guys were brought into the game by her in her summer camp. She gets them started in a very good way.”
Dillon described the coaching situation at Vashon as unique because most of the players are multiple-sport athletes who learn how to play tennis. Many of the teams Vashon faces have athletes who play tennis year-round in private clubs.
Added to that is the difficulty of teaching the players the technical fine points: With six tennis courts, it’s hard to get to every player individually, so his hope is to get people who are good athletes who can be whipped into shape quickly, Dillon said.
Serko, for example, was a good basketball player, and Bard was shortstop on the baseball team.
“Instead of teaching them to improve their backhands,” Dillon said, “I’ll help them to turn around to the forehand.”
And although he’s pleased when the players win, Dillon said, “I want them to have fun, to enjoy themselves learning a sport they can play throughout their lives.”
Tennis is an individual sport, and the team aspect of it makes the coaching a bit different for Dillon in a way he hadn’t anticipated.
“As a coach, I am becoming more aware of strategy, of the ramifications of different personalities and how they work out in doubles,” he said.
Two players may be good friends, but they might not gel in doubles.
Dillon said that he didn’t play tennis in high school, but was a decent basketball and baseball player, so he himself fits the definition of the Vashon players.
Dillon did learn to play at age 10 from his father, who was a teacher and a coach of many sports, and he played “street tennis” as a kid growing up in Boston, he said.