Sports

Central Kitsap’s girls netters double down

Central Kitsap’s Aya Sugimoto at districts last weekend, ready for state. -
Central Kitsap’s Aya Sugimoto at districts last weekend, ready for state.
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The Central Kitsap Cougars have done it again.

For the second consecutive season, CK won the team title at the West Central District III tournament last weekend at Tacoma’s Sprinker Recreation Center. And while the title was a repeat, it was a new winning formula that employed even more teamwork than usual.

Where the CK girls tennis squad has previously blended strong singles and doubles play, the Cougars doubled their fun this season, with singles players Aya Sugimoto and Corinne Wurden lining up as a doubles squad alongside doubles tandems Sachi and Katherine Sugimoto and Amy Rozier and Nicole Morrison.

The result was the doubles title, third place and fourth place, with all three ending districts on a winning note.

“It’s excellent,” CK coach Ken Allen said, pointing out CK’s team win at the Narrows League tourney this season as well. “It’s great to win the league and districts is even tougher. For us to do it two years in a row is a pretty big accomplishment.”

However, the wins didn’t come without some disappointment.

Rozier and Morrison, who nearly placed at state last year as freshmen, were the odd team out as state rules prevent more than two teams from one school advancing beyond districts.

Allen said the team realized the possibility when Aya Sugimoto and Wurden teamed up prior to the league tournament.

“As a coach, you got a great doubles team,” he said of Aya and Wurden. “League champions, district champions. I didn’t want to say, ‘You can’t do that.’

“(Rozier and Morrison) are good enough to go to state,” Allen continued. “I didn’t want to say, ‘You can’t.’”

He talked with Rozier and Morrison about whether they wanted to continue on the doubles path or attempt to qualify as singles participants, but Allen said both sophomores opted to remain a doubles team.

“They just thought doubles was going to be the way they’d like to go to state,” he said. “There wasn’t any hard feelings. They all support each other.”

The rule will be changing next year, Allen said, as other programs like Bellarmine have fallen victim in recent years as well. If anything, he said he hopes this motivates the sophomores to want to do even better.

“Only time will tell,” Allen said. “Right now, they’re letting it all sink in.”

At districts, Aya Sugimoto, who is Sachi’s sister, and Wurden had no trouble, topping a Graham-Kapowsin team 6-0, 6-1 before winning 6-0 in straight sets against a Kentwood pairing. That set up a nearly all-Sugimoto semi, as Aya and Wurden defeated Sachi and Katherine Sugimoto (no relation) also in 6-0 straight sets. Aya and Wurden went on to defeat Bellarmine’s Julia Galbraith and Nell Shonnard 6-3, 7-5, the same team they beat to win the league crown.

“Nell and Julia are extremely good tennis players,” Allen said. “If you can beat them, you have to feel good. They’re one of the best doubles teams around.”

Both qualified for state last year as singles participants.

With two titles in as many weeks under their belts, Allen said it hasn’t been hard for Aya and Wurden to find a rhythm as a team. Wurden has played doubles before, although not with Aya.

“They are very strong players,” Allen said. “They’re good enough and smart enough tennis players that they can make and have made a smooth transition.”

And what better way for them to gel than in the thick of the postseason, Allen said.

“The best opportunity was leagues, then getting in at districts,” he said. “They’re becoming more and more focused with each other. I think it’ll work out well for them.”

Sachi and Katherine Sugimoto both qualified for state last season. At districts, the pairing felled Anna McIntosh and Chelsey White, of Kentridge, 6-2, 6-3 to earn the third-place spot.

“They’re really optimistic,” Allen said of his longest-tenured doubles tandem. “They have a tough draw but they’re playing good tennis. They’re very familiar with each other. They’ve been here before. They know what to expect. They have a good chance to do well.”

In taking fourth place, Rozier and Morrison defeated Puyallup’s Rebecca Robbins and Chelsea Bruno 6-1, 6-4. Normally, the top six teams advance with the seventh-place finisher as the alternate. But with the rules preventing Rozier and Morrison from advancing, Jefferson’s Averi Kitsch and Mackenzie Qualls earned the final state berth. Rozier and Morrison beat the Jefferson duo 6-3 in straight sets in the consolation semifinals at districts.

Still, with the doubles teams left, Allen said he’s got high hopes for his netters.

“They’re all just hoping to play well, finish as high as they can,” he said. “They all want to win. And they’re all good enough to do really well.

“So far, so good.”

In Friday’s opener at the 4A WIAA State Girls Tennis Tournament, Aya and Wurden defeated Charleen Johnson and Megan Frederick of Moses Lake 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Results of the second round and of Katherine and Sachi’s opener were unavailable at press time. The tournament continues today at the Vancouver Tennis Center.

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