Family tradition revisited in Thorp bothers title defense
KENNEWICK - It was a family tradition revisited at the Class 4A state tennis championships held at Kamiakin High School and the Tri-City Court Club.
Last season, Mitchell and Jamie Thorp of John F. Kennedy Catholic High School flew out of the blue of the western sky to land with a Class 3A state doubles championship that completed the circle of a Thorp family tradition that was established before the brothers were born.
That was their first high school championship, but the second overall for their family because their mother, Maryann, won a singles title as a Kent-Meridian Royal in 1979 (then as Maryann Raftis).
Super satisfaction and feeling were part of the dream because their mother was the Lancer head coach.
This season the young men were the center of attention on the tennis radar as their head coach mom, brother, JFK assistant coach Bryan (who played for Kennedy Catholic before playing four years of varsity tennis for the University of Portland), brother Connor (who played doubles with Mitchell at the 2009 state tournament), his father Jim and grandma Dar looked on.
"She was our lucky charm since she was there last year when we won our first title," said Mitchell.
This proved to be an additional incentive for the Thorp brothers in their quest for the two-peat title.
On Saturday, May 26, the senior Mitchell and junior Jamie added to the tradition with the defense of their championship after two days of competition against the best of the state and the weather elements. The Thorp brothers knocked off Matt Alderson and Jacob Christensen of Bainbridge Island, 7-5, 6-4, to cap their championship season.
"The bottom line on this was experience," said Lancer head coach Maryann Thorp. "Playing in this type of venue can be intimidating. Last year, Mitchell mostly carried the load. This time, Jamie had already experienced the event and was also greatly improved as a player."
The hour was drawing late, but for this day, completion of the match in two sets also allowed Mitchell just enough time to attend another significant life occasion.
"I had just enough time to catch a flight home to attend prom night," he said.
In team action, the Kennedy boys earned 10 points for a fourth place team trophy with Bellevue. Second place Seattle Prep had 12 points while Mercer island ran away with the cahmpionship, scoring 35 points.
Events leading up to the title face off set the stage for the glorious finale.
Super strong winds on the opening day of May 25 had huge effects on the player strategies. Higher level players were unable to use certain specialty shots, thus equalizing the competition to a degree.
"The conditions forced some pretty ugly tennis. Mitchell completely missed hitting the ball on one of his serves and some players were even serving underhand," observed coach Thorp.
Kennedy Catholic's devastating duo of Mitchell and Jamie Thorp still stormed to an opening round 6-2, 6-0, decision against the twosome of Colton Erho and Anthony Brimble of Eastmont.
Following this encounter, Thorp and Thorp ran into a possible road block in the form of Sam Blattner and Luke Targett of Seattle Prep. Both sets forced the Kennedy Catholic pair to raise the level of play to win a tough two-setter with similar scores of 6-4, 6-4.
With the championship nearly in sight, Kennedy Catholic's finest forced Kyle Baska and Marcus Almqvist of Mercer Island into the consolation round with a 6-3, 6-1, court control of the Islanders on Saturday morning in much calmer weather conditions.
An atmosphere of electricity permeated the inner confines of the Tri-City Court Club for the Saturday finals. Bleachers were brought inside, placing viewers literally next to the courts with people clapping and cheering during the intensely fought match.
Excitement clearly filled the air as the players went to war for the coveted championship trophy.
Alderson and Christensen of Bainbridge Island put up rugged opposition before the Lancer tandem dug in to outlast the Bainbridge pairing 7-5, 6-4, securing the repeat state championship on Saturday inside the Tri-city Court Club.
"It felt great to win state two years in a row, especially being a senior, and also a relief to defend our title, " said Mitchell Thorp. "It was sweet to go unbeaten during the two years of playing doubles with my brother."
Brother Jamie also had thoughts about the repeat title.
"It felt good, but there was also more pressure on us being the defending champions," he said. "In some ways, it was even more rewarding. The state tourney is always a fun atmosphere because of the team aspect. Four of my teammates were there. Two played singles and two were there to cheer me on.
Following two years of doubles together, the Lancer tandem closed out their high school partnership on the court with a 28-0 record, including 11-0 this season. Last year the duo was 17-0 while only dropping one set. It would be the only set that pairing would lose in the two-year competition.
As Mitchell and Jamie Thorp continue to hold current family ties, each is looking forward to new challenges..
"Next year, I'm going to play Division I tennis at the University of California Davis," said Mitch. "I'm looking forward to the canaraderie that goes with it."
Jamie also had his ideas.
"The thing I like most about competitive tennis is the competitive environment and opportunity for creativity on the court," he said. "It also helps me in other areas of my life. I plan to play singles in post season play next year and after high school I would like to play Division I college tennis."
Other changes include the seaparation of boys tennis from girls tennis. Next season the boys will play high school tennis in the fall.
Two KC boys singles players were eliminated in consecutive matches. According to head coach Maryann Thorp, the boys played well, but their opponents were able to out perform the Lancers in critical stretches.
Taas Sribhibhadh fought gamely in a loser-out match against Trevor Jones of the Mountain View Thunder. Jones earned a 6-2 first set victory, but Sribhibhadh turned the tables to win a 6-3 second set before Jones recovered for a 6-1 third set win.
In his opening match, the Lancer singles player was beaten, 6-0, 6-0, by Frederic Strabo of Seattle Prep. Strabo had beaten the JFK player at Sea King District 2. Sribhibhadh struggled to hold his own serve against the six-foot, four-inch player who owned a big serve.
"Taas played well and looks forward to more," said head coach Thorp.
Vincent Viloria stroked evenly with Aaron Farmer of West Valley before being edged out in two sets, 6-2, 6-4, in his opening match. J. Ramirez of Shorecrest met a resurgent Viloria in a loser-out match and had all he could handle before sending the JFK athlete packing, 6-4, 6-4.
Against Ramirez, Viloria had multiple opportunities to break serve at 4-5 in the second set to keep the contest alive, but just missed pulling it off.
"Vincent has really matured as a player and played his best tennis of the year," said head coach Thorp.
Zack Kosanke of Bellevue stroked on to take the boys singles championship.
Highline's Bao Vu and Kyle Swain also participated in boys doubles action. For their opener, Vu and Swain fought a two-set battle against Alderson and Christensen of Bainbridge Island in a losing 6-2, 6-0, effort. In the following consolation match, Zack and Ben Elliot of Mercer Island eliminated the Pirate pair 6-0, 6-1.
Blake Henley and Jennalee Gould represented Highline in the girls doubles in an opening round three-set barn burner style match.
Henley and Gould took control of the angles and ground strokes to win the first set, 6-3 against Kate Jameson and Jordan Ferguson of Bainbridge Island.
Bainbridge fought back to even the sets with a 6-3 second set win. The third set was fought fiercely before the Henely and Gould mustered up the energy down the stretch to edge out the Islanders, 6-4, and advance in the winners bracket.
After the rugged opening match, Henley and Gould looked across the net at sisters Akari and Shiori Baba of Prairie. The Pirates' view was a bit hard to endure as the eventual state championship Falcon pair stroked the Pirates into the consolation round in a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Francesca O' Malley and Danielle Brengleman of Shorewood then ended Henley and Gould's second state appearance in three years with a 6-2, 6-4, triumph.