After winning the Nisqually League Tournament, the following week was a busy one for the Vashon Island High School Pirates.
The district tournament was held last Wednesday and Thursday at Sprinker Tennis Center. The tournament combines the Nisqually and Olympic League’s top players, but this year was joined by entries from Life Christian Academy (LCA), which is technically in another district.
The tournament can be extremely demanding; a player may be required to play up to three matches in a day, with each match potentially going three sets. Since only the top two finishers in singles and doubles move on to the state tournament, there is a great deal of pressure to deal with as well.
In singles, Pirates senior Towner Anderson used a well-deserved No. 1 seed, winning all three of his matches and only dropping one game en route to the championship. It was his first district championship and earned him a second trip to the state tournament.
Sophomore Evan Keppler also had a great tournament for the Pirates as their second singles player. Despite placing second in the league, Keppler got a difficult draw, playing the talented and experienced No. 2 seed from LCA in his first match. Keppler put up a great fight to keep this a close match, losing the first set 7-5 and playing the second set dead-even until they had to give up their court as the first day came to an end.
The next day, Keppler was unable to continue and moved on to a win in the second round before going on to the final, where he lost to Anderson. Due to the double-elimination format, he was then forced to play a strong Annie Wright player, who also had only one loss. In a tense match, Keppler played great tennis and again kept the match close, but this time it was not enough and the AW player took the win.
The doubles were especially tough at districts this year, with six teams that had a legitimate chance to advance to state and who played at a high level the entire time. VHS’s number one doubles team of Hank Rogers and J.J. Bogaard had earned the No. 1 seed by winning the league tournament. Both players are seniors and complement each other well, playing a solid tournament, winning three matches in a row to win the championship and advance to state. It was a great run, as they only dropped one set (to Vashon’s No. 2 team) and defeated a Charles Wright (CWA) team which had eliminated VHS and continued on to finish 5th in state last year.
The Pirate No. 2 doubles team of senior Cam Bedard and junior Zach Van Dusen had a great tournament. After winning their first match against a strong Klahowya team, they had to face Rogers/Bogaard and they gave Vashon’s No. 1 team their biggest challenge, splitting the first two sets before losing a close third set. After one loss, the margin for error is slim with that many competitive teams still in the tournament.
Eventually, the pair ran into a CWA team that just made a few more shots. The Pirates had their chances and played some great tennis, but lost in a tiebreaker, eventually finishing in fourth place.
With that much success in both singles and doubles matches, VHS easily won the team title for districts. This honor capped a season in which the Pirates also won the Nisqually regular-season title and the team title for the league championship. Each of the 27 players on this 2019 team improved tremendously and contributed to the team effort that made such a successful season possible. Anderson, Rogers and Bogaard will compete at the state tournament in Yakima in the spring.
— Pat Mulvihill is the assistant girls’ tennis coach for Vashon Island High School.