Prep boys tennis preview: 5 storylines to watch

Here are five storylines to watch from the local boys tennis scene this fall:

1. Jackson is loaded with talent. The Timberwolves return Anuj Vimawala, who placed seventh in singles at last spring’s 4A state tournament, along with Andrew Hyun (a state-tournament qualifier in doubles last year) and All-Wesco 4A picks Daniel Sohn, Andrew Kim and Kevin Lee. Vimawala, “a tall left hander with a big serve (who) can do it all,” according to Jackson coach David Hutt, and Cascade’s Yevgeniy Kolomiyets are “easily” the two best players in the conference, according to Hutt. “The matchup between Yev and Anuj is the highlight for 4A. Definitely worth watching,” Bruins coach Brian Cherniak said. “(Yev) finished first in Wesco 4A last year, but didn’t place at state. He’s got a very big serve.” Glacier Peak also should finish near the top of the conference, Hutt said. Kamiak’s Aidan Norris advanced to the 4A state tournament in doubles last season and will lead the Knights this season as a singles player.

2. Snohomish will look to retain its dominance as the clear Wesco 3A North favorite.The Panthers haven’t lost a Wesco match since the 2014-15 season. “Snohomish is the clear favorite. To be cliche, Dick Jansen never rebuilds, he just reloads,” Arlington coach Ben Mendro said. The Panthers have the conference’s top player in Landon Strickland, who qualified for last spring’s 3A state tournament in doubles. “Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot,” Mendro said. “A lot of teams, including mine, graduated a lot of top players, so it will depend on how last year’s young junior-varsity players step up. I would probably peg Everett as the only (team) with a chance to challenge Snohomish.”

3. The Shoreline schools will battle atop the Wesco 3A South. Shorewood coach Arnie Moreno is expecting a battle for the top three spots in Wesco 3A South between his squad, Shorecrest and Edmonds-Woodway. The Thunderbirds have depth, with all-conference selections Gunnar Thorstenson, Steven Lin and Andrew Counter returning. The Scots will be led by Faiz Khan. He was part of a team that won the 2016 2A state doubles championship as a freshman, and last year won the District 1 3A South singles title. “He is really strong at the baseline and is a smart player who knows how to construct points well,” Shorecrest coach Robert Mann said. “He played No. 1 all season last year and has been working really hard all summer to improve his game even more.”

4. Everett’s Ryan Burt is ready to take the next step. Burt moved up to the No. 1 singles spot last year as a sophomore and struggled, dropping nine of his 12 regular-season matches before rallying to earn a spot in the 3A District 1 tournament. “This year his goal is a berth to the state tournament,” Seagulls co-coach Jim Conner said. Burt, who was the starting center fielder on Everett’s baseball team last spring, gave up summer baseball to focus exclusively on his tennis game, playing regularly against former Seagulls standout Ulises Aceves at the Mill Creek Tennis Club and traveling to California to work with former professional Erik Van’t Hof. “His game has really blossomed,” Conner said. “He now has a serve that has serious pace, much improved footwork added to already great footspeed, aggressive net play and points constructed in lethal manner. His new game is a combination of power and finesse and is fun to watch.”

5. Coaches are at the center of the Arlington-Stanwood rivalry. Sean Cunningham, who coached at Arlington from 2008-16 and took over as Stanwood’s girls coach last spring, is now the Spartans’ boys coach as well. “Sean and I coached together here at Arlington for several years, so it will be fun to butt heads with him in league play,” Mendro said. “We both have young, unproven teams, so it will be interesting to see what happens.”

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