Harper proves to have heart of a lion

North Kitsap sophomore Dayshawn Harper was fierce at the 2A boys state tennis tournament, finishing fifth despite being the lowest seed.

The sophomore embraced the tenacity of a lion from a moment he was taught as a freshman.

“We always have a Viking tournament, and it was a very similar situation to my last match in state,” Harper said. Coach Jay “Devries could tell I was tired, and when we talked in-between sets, he tried to motivate me.”

Devries said, “Are you a lion or a lamb?”

Harper said, “What do you mean?”

“Are you going to lay down like a little lamb or are you going to be a lion?”


Then “finish it.”

Harper went 3-1 at state May 26-27 at Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle. But he wasn’t even supposed to be there.

Two days before state, Harper was working as a tennis instructor at the Bainbridge Island Recreation Center when Devries got a call saying a Sammamish player broke the athletic code to lose his spot at state. District 3 did not have an alternate, so there needed to be a playoff.

“When I got into the car, my mom was picking me up and asked if my racket was restrung,” Harper said. “She told me that dad got a call from Jay that he is going to need you to play a match on Thursday.”

Before telling Harper’s father, Devries almost took matters into his own hands.

“I talked to (NKHS athletic director) Matt Stanford about options, and I thought OK let’s coin flip it,” Devries said. “I sat on it for five minutes and thought if I’m Dayshawn, there is no way I want to do a coin flip.”

Typically, North Kitsap’s tennis squad would leave for the state tournament immediately after school on Thursday, check into a hotel, practice and head for a team dinner. But the squad made a pit stop at Clover Park so Harper could face an opponent from Franklin Pierce at a neutral site.

Harper dominated 6-1 and 5-0 before the Cardinal player quit; officially qualifying Harper for state. “I knew I had nothing to lose because I wasn’t supposed to be here,” Harper said. “Let’s just have some fun.”

Harper faced the top-seed and eventual champion Zach Chai from Sehome. Harper shattered all expectations. He led 5-4 before falling 5-7 and 2-6.

Harper then won three straight coming up through the loser’s bracket to place fifth.

“It speaks volumes about who Dayshawn is,” Devries said. “He was able to come into a scenario like that, and everything after that was gravy for him. He is such an easy-going, fun-loving kid. He doesn’t wear his emotion on his sleeve.”

Harper dominated his next two matches 6-1, 6-0 and 6-4, 6-2. In his final match, he struggled early and dropped the first set 5-7. Trailing 1-4 in the second set, he began to think about the car ride home. However, Devries reminded him to be tenacious. “The other kid looked like every ounce of energy zapped out of him,” Devries said. “I went out to Dayshawn in between and did the lion and lamb thing.”

Harper bounced back and won the final two sets 6-4 and 6-1.

“Immediately when the match was over, I was happy I had fifth but mostly happy that I fought back,” Harper said. “My team was up there cheering so I knew I had to give it my all. What I enjoyed the most was seeing my team after the match and seeing them support me.”