There may be nobody more familiar with Cascade’s Patrick Chung, the favorite to win the Wesco 4A tournament, than Kamiak’s Jimmy Hua.
Hua, who could potentially face Chung in the district semifinal, was a freshman at Cascade last season. The then-Bruin was No. 2 on the ladder, and played Chung every day in practice.
Between his freshman and sophomore season Hua moved into the Mukilteo area, and is now the No. 1 singles player for the Kamiak team.
“I was jumping up and down,” said Kamiak head coach Vic Alinen. “I said to the Cascade coach Ashley (Layton), who I love, ‘Ashley I’m indebted. Thank you so much.’ She said, ‘Cascade’s loss is Kamiak’s gain.’”
After going 2-0 against Kamiak his freshman year, Hua found himself the Knights’ No. 1 singles player this season. Alinen said Hua has fit right in with his new teammates, and is an important member of the Kamiak team.
“Fortunately for us, he was a great tennis player,” Alinen said. “He merged right in. He shows up the first day and totally merges in as a part of our team. It’s just like he’s always been there.”
Hua lost both matches to Chung this season, but Alinen still believes that he can compete with who most agree is the top player in the area. The sophomore has a positive mindset and confidence before every match.
“He goes into every match with Patrick and he comes to me and says, ‘Coach, I’m feeling I can beat him today,’” Alinen said. “I said, ‘Son, that spirit, that feeling, is what you need every time you go out against state-quality kids. Whether it’s Ben (Mietzner) or Patrick, he believes he can compete with them or beat them on any given day.”
The two are still friends, and always enjoy sharing the court.
“They go over to Columbia (Athletic Club in Everett) and play there,” Alinen said. “They’re still friends. They play together in the off-season. A lot of people come over to watch Jimmy and Patrick play.”
Alinen said that Hua benefited greatly from playing Chung everyday. He also got instruction from Joe Chung — Patrick’s father — who is an assistant coach at Cascade.
Hua also has a determination and dedication to constantly get better.
“He’s the first one there, he’s the last one to leave,” Alinen said. “The kid is a committed man when it comes to tennis. He’s a leader. Not necessarily verbally, but just by demonstrating the passion he has to get better. And it’s going to affect our team.
“The same stuff that Patrick gave him, he’s giving my guys.”
Can Mietzner repeat?
Jackson’s Ben Mietzner has only beaten his rival, Cascade’s Chung, once in the last two years.
But it was a big win.
MIetzner took down Chung 6-4, 6-0 in the district title game last time, and is working hard during his junior year to try to make history repeat itself.
“Well Patrick’s gotten the best of Ben most of the time, but Ben beat him last year once,” said Jackson head coach David Hutt. “Both guys have been the best players in the league both last year and this year.”
Chung has an advantage as a left-handed player, which isn’t incredibly familiar for Mietzner. He can also get in a rhythm and is difficult to stop, according to Hutt.
In his big win, Hutt said that Mietzner was able to return Chung’s shots. Instead of immediately having to play defensively like most of Chung’s opponents, Mietzner is able to get some good shots off against the Bruin.
“Ben’s in great shape. He’s able to run all the shots down,” Hutt said. “He’s just very consistent and has a determination to keep the ball in play. And he’s very successful at it.
“The only person he’s lost to the last two years is Patrick.”
Who is the favorite in 3A?
Last year Meadowdale’s Nick Ekern beat Stanwood’s Jonathan Wolf in the district championship match. Wolf is gone to graduation and Ekern, who went 1-2 at state last spring, is back to defend his title.
But, somewhat surprisingly, it’s fair to say he’s not the favorite in this year’s tournament. Shorecrest junior Nishaant Limaye is unbeaten on the season at 14-0 and has beaten Ekern three times, including last week in the Wesco 3A South championship match. Limaye hopes to make it to state as a singles player this year after going as a doubles player last season.
Don’t count Ekern out, though. The Mavs No. 1 nearly got a set off of Limaye, losing the second set 7-5 on Oct. 15 and has the experience to make a run to another district singles championship.
Glacier Peak’s Patrick Luangrath finished third in districts last season and would be happy to do it again and punch his ticket back to the state tournament. Shorewood’s Logan Keebler and Jamie Wright as well as Ekern’s teammate Bret Matysik will try to make their first trips to state as singles players.