CK tennis state’s finest

The Central Kitsap girls tennis team (from left: Katherine Sugimoto, Sachi Sugimoto, coach Ken Allen, Corinne Wurden and Aya Sugimoto) pose with the 4A WIAA State Girls Tennis Championships team trophy, the school’s first state crown in any sport since 2001. - Photo courtesy of Ken Allen
The Central Kitsap girls tennis team (from left: Katherine Sugimoto, Sachi Sugimoto, coach Ken Allen, Corinne Wurden and Aya Sugimoto) pose with the 4A WIAA State Girls Tennis Championships team trophy, the school’s first state crown in any sport since 2001.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Ken Allen

Doubles champs Aya Sugimoto, Corinne Wurden lead Cougars to share of team title.

VANCOUVER — It was déjà vu all over again for Aya Sugimoto and Corinne Wurden.

After knocking off Bellarmine Prep’s Julia Galbraith and Nell Shonnard two weeks ago for the Narrows League championship and again last week for the district crown, the terrific CK tandem made it three in a row, going three sets before upending Galbraith and Shonnard in the biggest match of their high school careers, claiming the 2008 4A WIAA State Girls Tennis doubles championship in the process.

“That was the fourth time this year and the third consecutive final,” CK coach Ken Allen said. “We kind of had a feeling after the league championships we’d be seeing them again.”

This time was the closest bout yet between the state’s top 4A doubles squads, with Sugimoto and Wurden taking a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory. In the final set, up 5-4, CK put the win away — a much needed match point, Allen said.

“We didn’t want five-all,” Allen said. “We wanted that one.”

CK’s Sugimoto and Wurden got it, not only claiming the doubles crown, but locking up a share of the 4A state team title with Mead last weekend at the Vancouver Tennis Center.

“It feels good,” Allen said of the team title, the first for CK tennis and first CK state crown in any sport since girls bowling won the 2001 and 2002 state titles. “The kids worked really hard. And not just this year. They’ve worked hard all year every year.”

Not only is it the school’s first state tennis team title, but Sugimoto and Wurden will now also go down as the school’s first state tennis champs individually as well with their doubles dominance.

“It’s pretty hard to do,” Allen said. “It was just kind of the mixture of relief and excitement. They were very happy. Everybody was.”

In their opening match, Sugimoto and Wurden began nicely with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Moses Lakes’ Charleen Johnson and Megan Frederick. Those wins would set up a seven-set winning streak that didn’t snap until meeting Bellarmine in the final.

In the next round, CK’s No. 1 doubles team won 6-2 straight sets against Amanda Waldron and Michelle Nelson of Edmonds-Woodway, a team later eliminated by CK No. 2 doubles squad Katherine and Sachi Sugimoto (unrelated).

Aya Sugimoto and Wurden met up with Wenatchee’s Tatiana Wood and Amy Scheumann (the eventual third-place finishers) in the semifinals, winning handily again 6-0, 6-2 before meeting Galbraith and Shonnard in the final.

“We had that feeling that if we were going to be able to make it to the end, they would be too,” Allen said of meeting the Bellarmine duo once more. “And I don’t think we were overconfident. Aya and Corinne know how good (Shonnard and Galbraith) are.”

After topping the Lions pairing 6-3, 7-5 in the district final, Allen said it’s always interesting facing a team so many times with so much on the line.

“I guess it has it’s pros and cons,” he said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Here we go again.’ Julia and Nell were a little bit closer each time they played. At the same time, (Aya and Corinne) knew what to expect.”

The added challenge simply made the victory taste that much sweeter, Allen said.

“Having to earn it makes this more fulfilling,” he said. “They felt very proud of themselves. And they were happy for the team. They were still thinking about the team. They’re very team-oriented in a sport that’s not always.”

With both CK and Bellarmine matching up for the league, district and state doubles crowns, Allen said the Narrows League has proven once more to be at the top of the state high school tennis pinnacle.

“I think definitely we have — right now, our last couple of years — the toughest league in the state,” he said. “Between Gig Harbor, Bellarmine and CK, you’re talking about the best kids in the state.”

Gig Harbor’s Christy Sipes won the singles title after finishing second last year as a freshman. Bellarmine was third in team points with 11 and Gig Harbor tied for fourth with Wenatchee, each logging 10 team points. Bellarmine won the boys team title. Last year, Aya Sugimoto placed sixth at the state singles tournament.

But even beyond the league, Allen said the championship tandem joins the county’s finest, a group that includes previous state champs like South Kitsap alum Stephanie Davison and Olympic’s boys champion Laith Al-Agba.

“Consistently, Kitsap County has had a lot of great tennis players,” Allen said. “There have been a ton. Just a ton. And the common thread they all have is they’re all club players.”

Katherine and Sachi Sugimoto, both seniors, advanced back to the state tournament after qualifying last year as well. Unlike last year however, the No. 2 doubles duo for the Cougars also returned home with a little hardware.

Not only did Katherine and Sachi Sugimoto claim sixth place in the state tourney, they were also given the tourney’s Sportsmanship Awards.

“They played excellent as well,” Allen said. “Everyone had a great tourney.”

Matching up with Britta and Katrina Stime of Mead, the Sugimotos took the first set 6-4 before falling 6-1, 6-2 in the next two sets, handing the Stimes fourth place. The Stimes also topped the Sugimotos in the opening round, 7-5, 6-3.

“I think they were proud of themselves as well,” Allen said. “They would have liked to take that match. But give credit to Mead. They’re great players as well.”

After the opening loss, the Sugimotos beat Brittany Millan and Kaitlyn Jones of Lake Stevens 6-0, 6-3 before topping Waldron and Nelson 6-2, 1-6, 1-0 (5) to advance to the consolation semifinals. In that match, CK topped Woodinville’s Brianne Byers and Samantha Cobb 6-2, 6-3. Aya and Sachi Sugimoto are sisters, while Katherine is unrelated.

Mead and CK finished tied atop the team points standing with 15 apiece. That could have been much different though, as CK was unable to bring along its No. 3 doubles team of Aimee Rozier and Nicole Morrison, who despite taking fourth at districts fell victim to a rule that prevents more than two doubles teams from advancing to state. That allowed seventh-place district finishers Averi Kitsch and Mackenzie Qualls of Jefferson to get in automatically instead of as the alternate. The Jefferson pairing (which lost to Rozier and Morrison at districts) wound up taking fifth place overall.

While that rule will change last year, Allen said he has no doubts that CK would have been the state team champions outright had they been allowed to participate.

“Those are teams that they had beaten,” Allen said, also referring to a Puyallup team that qualified. “I think definitely we earned and deserve to be state champions.”

While CK and Mead share the team title, both will get a trophy. CK’s will take a little time to get to Silverdale however, as the league is mailing up the second.

With all three of the Sugimotos set to graduate, Allen said he couldn’t think of a more rewarding way for the trio to go out after having given so much to the program.

“I think this year was a great way for them to go out,” he said. “For our seniors, it can’t finish any better at all. It’s kind of a great way to end it all for them.”

Wurden returns next year however, which Allen said is nice as she’ll be able to relay her experiences to her teammates, something the Sugimotos were able to do before her.

“It’s nice to not to have everyone leave from an experience like that,” Allen said. “It’s nice to have someone there that can talk to the kids.”

But he acknowledged that CK will have a very different look on the courts next year.

“For Corinne, she still has a future,” Allen said of her being the lone state returner. “She’s excited for next year already. But for everyone, it’s gonna be a change.”

But with Rozier and Morrison also returning, Allen said the Cougars will still be strong. But as Allen said is always the case, it’s all about who’s willing to step up, adding that to be competitive at the state level, players have to be more than seasonal.

“Katherine, Sachi and Aya didn’t come in at the level they’re leaving,” he said. “It took time. That’s what it takes in a sport like this.”

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