SEATTLE — This was one for the record books.
North Kitsap’s Danya Wallis made history May 26 when she defeated Anna Rios of Foster High School to win her fourth 2A girls state tennis singles championship, becoming the first Kitsap tennis player to do so.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “It feels very surreal because it’s been my goal for so long to win four. I will tell you there was a point in that match where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it, so I’m very happy with myself.”
After Wallis was mobbed with congratulatory messages from her family and friends, she noted that of her four state championship matches, this was by far the most difficult to win.
Much like her semi-final match against an undefeated Faith Grisham of Columbia River, the first set was a see-saw battle. Early on, Wallis even found herself down.
But Wallis did what she does best — adjusting to her opponents’ vulnerabilities.
“I just go in and find their weakness and focus on the weakness,” she said. “That’s how I win all my matches.”
Down 1-0 and then 3-2, it looked as if this one might go to a third set as it did her freshman year. Rios, her opponent, looked exceptionally sharp right out of the gate. She was nailing the corners of the court and fought off some well-placed hits.
It wasn’t enough, though. Wallis found her groove halfway through the first set to overwhelm Rios, 6-3. This match was eerily similar to the semi-finals, not because of the identical final scores, but because Wallis came back to dominate in the second set.
Those who showcased a little anxiety as they watched Wallis in set one felt their anxiety subside in set two. Wallis consistently moved Rios around the court, forcing her to make off-balance shots. Although Rios scored a few small victories here and there, it was Wallis who won the war.
“I will say, I don’t go into any match ever thinking that I’m going to win even if I’m expected to win,” Wallis said. “I go into every match thinking I will try my hardest and so, in the beginning of the second set, I was thinking, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ ”
When asked if she had any celebrations mapped out after her feat, Wallis simply said she’s “just going to sleep.”
All the time, effort and practice to get her fourth title, combined with some early mornings, is certainly tiring. However, it paid off. Wallis said she especially appreciates Erik Jacobsen, a tennis pro who has trained with her for years at Kitsap Tennis & Athletic Center.
“He Is the reason I am where I am, and he’s helped me a lot, so I’m very happy that I have him,” she said of Jacobsen.
What next awaits for Wallis is the University of Redlands, a private nonprofit college in southern California. Because she has been playing tennis since grade school, Wallis said though she’s happy to play for a Division III team, she plans to shift her focus on academics.
The tennis phenom wasn’t the only athlete to find success in the state tournament. The Viking girls team placed first while the boys came in third. The doubles team of Justus Jagodzinske and Nate Blanchard finished in sixth place for NK while Scott Lyons took fifth in a competitive singles match against Lindbergh’s Kyle Hebbeler.
Meanwhile, Kingston’s doubles team of Lily Beaulieu and Emily Shaleen edged out Sehome’s Isla Hall and Sydney Leiweke in three sets to take third in the 2A girls state competition. Just behind that duo in fourth place was Darija Maric and Jasmine Palaganas of Bremerton.
Olympic’s Marissa Nemeth took sixth in the girls 2A singles tournament. Central Kitsap’s Tyler Feldbush finished seventh in the boys 3A bracket.
— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. Contact him at Jmoore@Soundpublishing.com or follow him on Twitter @JMooreKDN.