When Mountlake Terrace’s Nicole Bouche and Gillian Braden-Armstrong looked across the net at their opponents in their final match at the Class 3A state girls tennis doubles championships, they had to be thinking to themselves – you again?
For the third straight week, Braden-Armstrong and Bouche faced Shorewood’s Francesca O’Malley and Danielle Brenglemann. The Mountlake Terrace duo beat their rivals in the sub-district championship match, while the Shorewood duo prevailed in the district title match.
This time Bouche and Braden-Armstrong defeated O’Malley and Brenglemann 6-3, 6-2 to take fourth place overall in the May 26 consolation match.
“I’m so happy,” Bouche said. “The whole experience of going to state was amazing. I’m so proud of my partner.”
Neither Bouche, a freshman, nor Braden-Armstrong, a senior, had been to the state tournament before this year. But whatever jitters the two had were quickly dispelled as the Hawks duo upended Auburn Mountainview’s Nichole Usher and Alicia Jow 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) in a first-round match to advance to the quarterfinals.
“The first match was a little bit scary,” Bouche said. “We didn’t really know what it would be like. We pushed through the nerves and came out with the first win.”
Bouche and Braden-Armstrong then lost 6-4, 7-5 to West Valley’s Carley Schmid and Carly Right. The defeat sent the Mountlake Terrace duo into a loser-out match against a pair of Highline players, which Braden-Armstrong and Bouche won 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. That victory guaranteed that the two would come home with either a fourth- or a seventh place medal. Bouche and Braden-Armstrong had to refocus after dropping the first set.
“We didn’t want to be done,” Bouche said. “We wanted to keep fighting. We won the second set. We let loose in the third set and won 6-0. That was awesome to see.”
Mountlake Terrace coach Alberto Ramirez saw a little of the tension leave as the second set started.
“They started having fun,” he said. “That’s what I asked them to do and you could see it. They were smiling and just playing better and better. The third set was a breeze. They were never challenged after the second set.”
Bouche was eager to play the Shorewood duo again after losing to the Thunderbirds a week earlier at districts.
“They’re a really good team,” Bouche said. “We’re really well-matched. Anything can happen. In that match we were focused. We played as a team really well and we were just determined to get that fourth place.”
Bouche and Braden-Armstrong are the first Mountlake Terrace players to advance to state during Ramirez’ five-year tenure as head coach, and as far as school officials have been able to determine the two may be the first in school history or at least decades.
“Watching the other players, I think we were just as strong the finalists were,” Ramirez said. “The girls improved with every match.”