Squalicum High School’s best tennis player, junior Jake Turk, ran into a buzzsaw Thursday.
His name was Riley Newman.
A Falcon freshman playing his first match at home, Newman beat Turk 6-0, 6-1 with unrelenting poise, skill and verve.
“He was pretty good but he started to over hit the ball trying to get me to make a mistake,” Newman said after the match. “I took advantage of that.”
After the first set, Falcon coach Tom Kramer advised Newman to focus more on the ball when Turk came to the net. Kramer also suggested getting down on the ball when receiving serves. It was careful advice; to the point and not over-analytical.
“Not too much or they’ll forget what I say,” Kramer said.
It was a tough loss for Turk. His frustration was evident as he threw his tennis racquet to the ground after another in a series of bad serves.
Last year, Squalicum finished second in the Northwest League at 13-1.
Naturally, Joe O’Brien, the Storm’s head coach, had every reason to expect another good year.
“We were successful the last time we came down here,” O’Brien said Thursday after getting his team matched up with their Falcon opponents.
Though his more experienced team did well overall, O’Brien had little to say when the day was done.
For South Whidbey, top doubles players Matt Idso and Sean Hough lost in three sets 2-6, 6-2 and 2-6 while second seed Ben Snow lost 7-5, 4-6 and 2-6.
“Clearly, Riley was the stand-out, but Squalicum has a good team,” Kramer said. “They have more experience and it showed. Matt, Sean and Ben had three long sets and held their own.”
He noted that Idso and Hough won their match in Burlington 6-1, 6-1 earlier in the week.
The second doubles pair of Jeff Potter and Grant Neubauer lost 4-6, 4-6, but gained a lot of ground in terms of working together on the court.
It may seem a little unusual that a freshman player is matched with a top seed, but coach Kramer said that’s the nature of the sport.
“In tennis, a player earns his spot based on skill level and ability,” he said. “They play where they are the most successful — 22 kids fighting for the top 10 spots — and I know Riley will play his best every time out.”
On Sept. 4, Newman beat Burlington-Edison’s Tom Bart 6-1, 6-3.
Kramer believes Newman can compete at the state level, and if it happens, it will be the first time since 1984 that a Falcon freshman has demonstrated such potential.
The coach noted that Newman has good hand and foot speed and coordination, plus the basic skills. But Kramer was quick to point out that Newman is young and has some weaknesses that need to be corrected.
On Sept. 17 the team travels to Anacortes, then welcomes Lynden at
3:45 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17.