Prep boys tennis preview: 5 storylines to watch

Jackson’s streak, Shoreline dominance and longtime coaches leaving are among interesting subplots.

1 Timberwolves hunt for 50 straight. Jackson has been nothing short of dominant on the tennis court over the past two seasons. The Timberwolves have racked up 35 straight wins since suffering their last loss — a 4-3 defeat against Snohomish in 2015. The team closed that season with two wins and followed it with back-to-back undefeated campaigns, outscoring its opponents 238-19 over that time. In order to hit the 50-win plateau, the Timberwolves will have to make it through their third straight unbeaten season. The Timberwolves passed two early tests, getting by Shorewood 4-3 to open their season before blanking Snohomish 7-0 two days later. Another tough matchup looms when Jackson heads to Shorecrest on Sept. 12, giving the Timberwolves their third brutal opponent in their first five matches.

2 Edmonds-Woodway could break dominance of Shoreline schools

Either Shorewood or Shorecrest has won the Wesco 3A South title in each season since the Class 3A schools split into North and South divisions before the 2012-2013 school year. That could change this season, as the Warriors started their season with an impressive 6-1 win over defending Wesco 3A North champion Snohomish. Both Shorewood and Shorecrest have lost their top player from a season ago but return many players with varsity experience. It should be a tight, three-team race atop the South standings.

3 Long-time coaches hang up their cllipboards

Wesco 3A North lost 68 years of coaching experience with the departure of two program stalwarts. Dick Jansen, who coached boys and girls tennis at Snohomish for the past 48 years, resigned after leading both the boys and girls tennis teams to Wesco 3A North titles this past school year. He’ll be replaced by junior varsity coach Ben Doucette, who was the head coach of Snohomish’s girls team in the 90s. “One of his just amazing strengths is he can remember names and players and matches and match scores from 15, 20 years ago,” Doucette said of Jansen. “I mean, he has an amazing memory for people and players. He’s just a tennis encyclopedia.” Oak Harbor says goodbye to Horace Mells, who was at the helm of the boys and girls programs for the past 20 seasons. Tino Gutierrez will take over the reins for Oak Harbor after six years as an assistant on Mells’ staff.

4 A change in Wesco 3A’s conference scheduling

In previous years, Wesco 3A North and South teams played each team from their respective divisions twice (North schools 12 total matches and South schools 10) and filled out the rest of their 16-match schedules with non-conference opponents. That will change in 2018, as 3A schools switch to a six-match conference slate. The addition of Archbishop Murphy to the Wesco 3A South gives each division seven teams apiece in 2018. Doucette said the schedule change also gives traditionally stronger tennis programs more of an opportunity to see tougher opponents throughout the year to prepare their players for the postseason.

5 Cougars building from the ground up in program’s first year

For the first time in the school history, Lakewood has a boys tennis team. The school has had a girls program for over 20 years, but there was never much of a reason to start a boys program while competing in the Cascade Conference because only a couple of other schools in the league had programs. Lakewood moved into the Northwest Conference to start the 2017-18 school year, which has many boys tennis programs, and the Cougars’ new school came with upgraded tennis facilities. The Cougars are hoping to increase their participation numbers from 13 to 23 as the school year begins, in order to field full varsity and junior varsity teams. Lakewood played its first match of the season Tuesday at home against Arlington, and Cougars coach Bob Walker, who’s coached the girls team for a combined 14 seasons in two stints, said it was exciting to see a nice turnout of fans for the program’s inaugural match.

—Zac Hereth, Herald writer

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