Early in the second set of the Olympic League doubles final, North Kitsap junior Josh Smith was at the net when a smash from Bainbridge’s Aiden McLennan came his way.
With no time to react, Smith just managed to get his racket in position to get a piece of the ball, and it was just enough to get the volley back over the net for a point.
Although Smith and his partner, Drake Jones, were the No. 1 seed in the tournament and had dominated their side of the bracket, even the top dogs can always benefit from a fortunate bounce. “I think it hit the frame or the handle,” Smith said. “That was a lot of luck.”
Smith and Jones went on to capture that league championship Friday at Central Kitsap High School with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over McLennan and Sean Westerhout of Bainbridge.
The duo served as North Kitsap’s No. 2 doubles team last year and qualified for the state tournament that never took place as COVID-19 canceled all high school sports last spring. In the meantime, they managed to get on an outdoor court whenever possible. “We just played outside and stayed fit as much as we could,” Smith said.
Smith and Jones kept their opponents off-balance all tournament with an unorthodox style of play that sees both of them staying back until it’s time to attack the net, which is where Smith, in particular, excels at putting away shots.
“It works really well for us,” Jones said. “Both of us can hit our groundstrokes really well and lob pretty decently, too. And at the net, Josh right here is a beast. Any ball that gets hit there, he can just put it away.”
The two Vikings never gave up more than one point in a match until the finals. They defeated Declan McLennan and Emerson Nicholas of Bainbridge 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals, then knocked off Wyatt Hall and Caleb Flodstrom of Port Angeles 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the Aiden McLennan/Westerhout pair were the No. 2 seed and beat Carl Burchill and Lucas Reister of North Kitsap 6-0, 6-0, in the quarterfinals. Next they defeated William Hughes and Dustan Koch of Sequim in the semifinals to set up the finals matchup.
“We usually don’t play Bainbridge in the regular season,” Smith said. “But we did this year, and we knew it would be really tough.”
Elsewhere in the doubles tournament, Kingston’s Eli Guedea and Garrett McDaniel split fifth place with Hughes and Koch of Sequim.
In the singles tournament, Bainbridge’s Brogan Rice, the No. 3 seed, took second place, falling in the championship match 6-4, 6-3 to top-seeded Sequim freshman Garrett Little. North Kitsap’s Jason Hart placed third, sharing the honor with Reef Gelder of Port Angeles.