At the end of their freshman season, Drake Jones and Josh Smith paired up as a doubles team for North Kitsap’s boys tennis team. Since then, the dynamic duo took over the courts, including winning the 2A state championship this season.
Before the tournament began, coach Jay DeVries thought they could win it all.
“I believed [Drake and Josh] could win at the beginning of their junior year, but due to COVID, we didn’t get to have a state tournament,” DeVries said.
Smith also thought they could win, as they had not lost a match in two years, but they came in as the No. 2 seed.
In their first match, they played Michael Soule and Damon Gunderson from Port Angeles. When Smith and Jones stepped onto the court, they began to turn heads with their unorthodox style.
“In the first set, we do a double back,” Jones said. “For the next set, we know the other team will change their game plan quite a bit. Josh and I will talk ideas and either play double front, hitting more lobs, or more alley shots and see what works best.”
Due to their unconventional ways, Jones and Smith were able to defeat the Port Angeles duo 6-1, 6-4.
DeVries said they adapt well in all situations: they have become very good against pushers, teams that just get the ball back, teams with club kids, and those who play up or back.
Their style led them to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Anacortes in the second round, which was the quarterfinals.
On the second day at state, tensions began to build. Jones and Smith went up against a couple of top-tier club kids from Pullman. After a slow start, Smith thought they were on the verge of heading home.
“In the second set of the semifinal match, we were down 0-3,” Smith said. “We were sitting down, and I was talking to Drake. I said, ‘We might have lost this set; it’s not looking good.’ Drake picked me up and said, ‘Don’t say that. We can come back.’”
Jones and Smith swung the momentum in their favor, winning the set in a 7-6 tiebreaker. Shortly after, the North Kitsap duo took over the match, winning in three sets. Afterward, DeVries had a conversation with the Pullman coach.
“The Pullman coach came over to me and was baffled,” DeVries said. “In his own ways, he could not believe my two kids beat his two really good tennis players.”
Heading into the state title match, DeVries huddled up with Smith and Jones to give them a final word of advice.
“What I said at the beginning was, ‘You guys have worked so hard to get here. You put in the time, and now it’s time to believe in yourself,’” DeVries said.
Jones and Smith faced the team from Selah High School. The two sides split the first sets 6-4, 4-6. With the title on the line, Smith and Jones stepped up and dominated Selah 6-0. When they won the final point, their emotions poured onto the court.
“After match point, I dropped my racket and hugged Drake,” Smith said. “It was the best feeling in the world.”
Jones added: “It took a minute for it to settle in that we’re done with high school tennis. It was a crazy feeling because the state championship game was really interesting.”
DeVries pitched in: “As the coach, you want it desperately for your kids. It was elation at its finest, but the build-up to it was stressful. It was emotional with all the adversity with all these kids sitting on the sidelines for two years, begging to do things. They finally got their chance and dominated.”
After four seasons working alongside each other, the NK pair finished on top.