Mead’s Erica Norris doesn’t play tennis with the guys as much as she’d like, but she makes the most of it when she does.
Norris captured her third consecutive mixed doubles title at the 64th annual Inland Empire High School Tennis Championships on Saturday at Mead. She partnered with Bryan Lee and captured the title with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Gonzaga Prep’s Nikolas Westfield and Lizzie Reiner in the championship match.
“This year, this was the only tournament I got to play mixed,” said Norris, who shared last year’s crown with Lee and will play at Lewis-Clark State College next year. “It’s really cool to be able to play in an event I like. I just like competing against guys. They bring harder serves and harder shots. Girls seem to play better with guys.
“I practice with Bryan, and he has a big serve. If I can hit his serve, I can hit almost anyone’s.”
Perhaps no male player at the tournament hit harder than Richland’s Troy Zuroske, who picked up a second straight Inland Empire singles title with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Ethan Vaughn of Mead. Zuroske said afterward that the sting felt after a loss to Vaughn in regionals two years ago provided him with added motivation in their matchup.
Zuroske flustered Vaughn with his booming serve and crafty play at the net. The serve-and-volley game has almost disappeared at the high school level nationally, but Zuroske used that style effectively to keep Vaughn at bay.
For the tournament, “you have to practice as hard as you can the week before,” Zuroske said. “I crammed, basically. This is probably one of my favorite tournaments to play.”
“He’s always tough to play because of his big serve,” Vaughn said. “You have to try to hold serve every time and break him once, and that’s tough to do. He attacks you from the start.”
Alexis Filliol of West Valley (Yakima) won her second girls singles title in three years with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Mead’s Britta Stime. A state champion as a freshman in 2007, Filliol trailed 4-1 in the second set, but she rallied behind her serve and a multitude of winners down the line and cross-court.
Stime said she signed a scholarship offer with Gonzaga on Friday and now can turn her focus toward postseason play.
While each of the aforementioned champions previously had experienced success in the tournament, the same couldn’t be said for boys doubles champions Bryce Fager and Tom Geranios of Ferris. Seeded third despite never playing together competitively, Fager and Geranios upended Richland’s top-seeded Chris Shallman and Chris Colby 6-4, 7-5 in the final.
“We got to know how to play together in the first two rounds,” Fager said. “We built our game together, and every match we got better.”
The tournament consisted of 46 high schools and 575 athletes.