The high school boys tennis season is in full swing.
Here’s a look at some are the area’s top returning players and teams to watch this season:
Nalu Akiona, soph., Edmonds-Woodway
Akiona placed seventh at the Class 3A doubles state tournament and won the Wesco 3A South doubles tournament title alongside since-graduated teammate Grant Oliver last season. He also teamed up with Archbishop Murphy’s Cole Balen to win the Boys Gold Doubles division title at the Snohomish Summer Smash tournament in July. The sophomore has taken over the No. 1 singles spot for the Warriors this fall.
Cole Balen, sr., Archbishop Murphy
Balen placed seventh at the 2A state doubles tournament and won the 2A District 1 doubles title alongside his since-graduated brother, Sean, last season. He paired up with fellow senior Ethan Welter to win the second annual 2A District 1 Doubles Invite last week, which he won with Sean last year. He also teamed up with Edmonds-Woodway’s Nalu Akiona to win the Boys Gold Doubles division title at the Snohomish Summer Smash tournament in July.
JD Drake, jr., Shorewood
Drake holds down the No. 1 singles spot for the perennial Wesco 3A/2A South contender Stormrays. He advanced to the 3A state singles tournament and went 2-2 at the event last season.
Ben Lee, jr., Jackson
Lee went unbeaten in singles and doubles matches last season and is the reigning 4A state singles champion and two-time defending 4A District 1 singles champion. He also placed fifth at state in singles as a freshman while helping the powerhouse Timberwolves claim the 4A state team title.
Henry Park, sr., Jackson
Park went unbeaten in singles and doubles matches and claimed the 4A District 1 doubles title alongside teammate David Song last fall. He also finished as the 4A state singles runner-up and 4A District 1 singles title runner-up as a sophomore while helping the powerhouse Timberwolves claim the 4A state team title.
Cade Strickland, sr., Snohomish
Strickland advanced to the quarterfinals of the 3A state singles tournament and won the Wesco 3A North singles title last fall. He also claimed the title in the Gold Boys Singles division at the Snohomish Summer Smash tournament in July.
TEAMS TO WATCH
The Warriors are the defending Wesco 3A South champions and sent six players (two singles, two doubles) to the 3A state tournament last season. Edmonds-Woodway is off to a strong start this season with its only one loss through the first three weeks coming in a tight 4-3 battle with Wesco 3A North power Snohomish. First-year coach Cameron McDowell, who’s taking over for longtime leader Dan Crist, inherits a squad that returns half of its 2022 state contingent.
The powerhouse Timberwolves are the reigning Wesco 4A champions. The program has sent three singles players and one doubles team to state title matches over the past three state tournaments, which includes a singles and doubles champion. Jackson won a team state title in 2021 and finished as state runner-up in 2019. The Timberwolves are led by the standout one-two punch of defending state singles champion junior Ben Lee and 2021 state singles runner-up senior Henry Park. Jackson entered Friday 8-1 and 4-0 in league play after a key win over top league challenger Kamiak on Thursday.
The Knights placed second in Wesco 4A last season and appear to be the top challenger to defending champion Jackson this fall. Kamiak is led by Sean Benoit and 2022 state doubles participant Zion An. The squad opened its campaign with eight straight victories before falling to Jackson on Thursday in the first of two matches this season.
The Stormrays are a perennial contender in Wesco 3A South and finished as the runner-up in the league to Edmonds-Woodway in 2022. Shorewood qualified five players (one singles, two doubles) for state last season and brings back two in junior JD Drake and senior Sam Borgida. The Stormrays are off to a hot start with a 6-1 record and the lone loss being a tight 4-3 contest with Jackson in their season opener.
The Panthers are the defending Wesco 3A North champions and are led at the top by returning state quarterfinalist senior Cade Strickland and senior Alex Schwieger. Snohomish is 7-1, including a strong non-league win over Edmonds-Woodway, and has dropped just two matches during its 3-0 start in league play.