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Bremerton girls tennis star Bre Casias defeats reporter in lopsided challenge
I was sweating before we started keeping score.
Bre Casias, the No. 1 singles player for Bremerton High School who is competing at districts for the second year in a row, gave me a sweet smile, like a spider to a fly.
But what my opponent didn’t know was that in 2003, in my prime, I was a member of the Bainbridge High School varsity boys tennis team and participated in the playoffs.
The more svelte version of myself, a racquet-slinging powerhouse of marginal athletic talent, won the acclaimed “Most Improved Player” award, an accolade otherwise known as “Great Season, Loser, You Have Absolutely No Future In This Sport.”
But there I was Monday, on a tennis court in Bremerton with a chance to defeat Casias in a best two-of-three-game challenge. I felt good, I was on the court, the strokes came back, the borrowed racquet felt like an extension of my arm.
There for the experience of facing a state tournament-caliber player, in the spirit of playoff tennis, my ultimate goal was to win.
In a moment of elated candor, I blurted, “I don’t have a backhand, my backhand is weak.”
I didn’t realize my mistake until later, until Casias repeatedly, mercilessly, made me prove the weakness of my backhand.
The left-hander finished the regular season with a 10-1 record and was perfect against Class 3A opponents. She opened the district tournament Tuesday with a chance to become Bremerton’s first female tennis player to reach the 3A state tournament. With two more years of eligibility, she has a chance to become one of the premier players in the area by the time she graduates.
Casias’ fitness level, footwork and knowledge of the game were far superior than mine. Her serves more accurate, back-hand more consistent, forehand more powerful.
But none of this mattered. Not to the saturated sap gulping for breath on the other side of the net. This was my chance to breathe life into a tennis career that lurched through high school and sputtered out all together at the team banquet following my senior season. The cake was delicious.
My hopes were dashed when Casias hit her first serve.
The ball came off the left-hander’s Babolat-brand racquet with a spin I can only describe as dizzying. The bright yellow sphere suddenly resembled a starving honey bee. It zig-zagged and hummed and buzzed over the net, toward me, the clumpy comb of honey with no ability to self-defend.
My feet were stuck to the ground. My eyes stung from the sun and sweat. And as it all seeped into my face, all I managed was a half-swing, a swat, sending the ball skyward like a bottle rocket filled with far too much powder.
The fear of losing sunk in before the ball came back to earth. I panicked.
What would Casias tell her teammates the next day? How did I allow myself to slip so far from the glory days? Would it work to fake an injury? Where is the closest water fountain?
And for the love of spring in Bremerton, where’s the rain? Rain would mean a cancellation of the match. Not safe to play on a slick surface. Please, rain, arrive. Immediately. Now.
But instead of getting a storm, I was on the receiving end of another mystifying serve.
This time I adjusted, anticipating the spin, and I delivered a crisp return that began a winning rally. Score: 15-15.
For those who don’t know the rules of tennis, the scoring structure works as follows:
There are “games” and “sets” and a player must win six games to win a set. In high school tennis the first player to win two sets wins the match. Each game begins with the score tied at “love,” which equals zero. A player climbs from “love” to 15 to 30 and then to 40 by winning rallies. The point after 40 marks a victory unless the score at the time is tied 40-40, also called “deuce.” In that case the game goes until a player wins two consecutive points.
Back on the court, with the score tied, my confidence had been patched back together.
Assistant coach Jeremy Stitt suddenly seemed interested in the event unfolding.
In my mind there were thousands of spectators, cameras rolling, broadcasters calling the shots and fans clapping for me in a sophisticated tennis sort of way. I was in the spotlight. It was time to perform.
This was Wimbledon to me.
This was a waste of time to Casias.
The final eight points started and ended in painfully similar fashion, with me clutching my knees, wheezing and wiping foamy spit off my chin and shirt.
I managed to sustain most of the rallies for five or six hits, sending floating shots over the net only to have the ball come back at me like an angry ex.
Casias has the ability to hit the ball wherever she chooses, usually in the corners, leaving me no choice but to hustle, exert more energy than I had. It was like running lines or wind-sprints, back and forth across the court, over and over until the whistle blew. But the whistle never blew.
The match ended after an utterly exhausting effort that included me running back and forth across the court six separate times, grunting and panting and flailing, before hitting the ball into the net. It rolled toward my toe. I picked it up and nearly tumbled to the ground, too weak to support my mushy frame.
When we convened on the side of the court for a post-match interview, I choked out the only question that came to mind.
“At any point, and be honest, were you worried about losing?” I squeaked, staring at the tattered Jordan basketball shoes on my feet, most recently worn during a weed-pulling session.
“No,” she said. “You would have been running a lot more if I had been worried.”
Marching toward state
Bre Casias opened districts Tuesday at Sprinker Recreation Center in Tacoma as the Olympic League No. 1 seed, but she lost her match against Seamount League No. 4 seed Felicia Doubek of Kennedy High School, 4-6, 5-7.
The sophomore would have played another match later that day, but rainy conditions forced it to be postponed until Thursday. Casias needs two win twice Thursday to advance to state.
The Central Kitsap High School senior qualified Wednesday for the Class 4A state tournament. She will make her fourth straight appearance at state, which begins May 28. Wurden will go for a district title this weekend.
A sophomore at Klahowya Secondary School, Landram enters the Class 2A West Central District III tournament as a No. 1 seed. She took second at the 2A state tournament in 2009, losing 6-7, 2-6 in the championship match.
Becker, who played No. 1 singles for Klahowya during the regular season, enters districts as a No. 2 seed. She finished fourth at state last year. The 2A state title could be decided by an all-Klahowya match if she and Landram advance through districts.
Challenge the pro
Think you, your team or an athlete you know has what it takes to defeat the Average Pro? Contact Wesley Remmer at (360) 308-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.