Staudenraus poised to make noise at Narrows tourney

Blake Staudenraus is ready to orchestrate a victory song with the strings on his racquet.

The sophomore, who plays No. 1 singles on the South Kitsap boys tennis team, is a legitimate threat to make a deep postseason run.

He joined Dusty Wilkens, Chris Hardwick, Ryan Wernet and Sasha Stearns-Droker — all doubles players — at the Narrows League Tennis Tournament, which began Friday and continues today at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

For Staudenraus, who stepped into the the top singles position this year, the 2008 season was both successful and challenging.

“It“s been a big step (up) this year for him, going from No. 2 singles to No. 1,” SK coach Todd Olson said. “Just the way he“s improved over the year.”

His 5-5 regular season record is no head-turner, but Olson said he believes Staudenraus can compete with anybody in the Narrows League. And postseason play is his chance to prove it.

“He“s competed in all his matches,” said Olson, adding Staudenraus has faced nearly every No. 1 player in the league. “He“s taken the lumps he needed to grow.”

Those lumps have translated to personal growth off the court, confidence on the court and leadership in the locker room.

“He“s definitely stepped into that leadership role,” Olson said. “He talks to guys at practice like he“s a senior.”

The Wolves traveled to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma for preliminary round matches Monday — Staudenraus received a bye — to determine seeds and draws for the league tournament.

Foss“ No. 1, Linh Nguyen Tran, beat Olympia“s Grant Hughes 6-2, 6-2 and advanced to face Staudenraus yesterday in the first round of the league tournament.

Olson, who scouted Tran during his match against Hughes, coined him a “consistent player.”

“Blake just needs to stay aggressive and confident,” Olson said of facing Tran.

Seniors Dusty Wilkens and Chris Hardwick, who also received a bye in Monday“s prelims, are the Wolves“ No. 1 doubles team and should make postseason noise. They faced Gig Harbor“s No. 3, Grant Dahl and Mike Junge, to open the league tournament.

“They came on as a late combination at the end of the year,” Olson said. “They“re wanting to make a push for postseason action.”

Wilkens moved from No. 2 singles to No. 1 doubles late in the season, joining Hardwick in place of sophomore Isaac Roinas, who moved to singles.

Wilkens and Hardwick went 3-2, losing only to powerhouses Gig Harbor and Bellarmine Prep, and Olson believes their styles of play complement each other, making them a tough draw.

“Dusty, he uses a lot of spins, he“s got good volleys at the net. Chris is kind of the opposite, he“s a power hitter, he“s got a big serve,” Olson said. “They keep their opponents off balance.”

“As long as (they) stay aggressive and get to the net (they) should be OK.”

Sasha Sterns-Droker and Ryan Wernet, the Wolves“ No. 2 doubles team, somewhat surprisingly beat Stadium“s No. 1 team (6-2, 6-2) in prelims to advance to the league tournament. They faced Olympia“s No. 1 team yesterday.

“They“d probably be a lot of schools“ No. 1,” Olson said. “When their game is on, watch out.”

Roinas, meanwhile, lost in prelims by default after falling ill Monday and missing school. By rule, he was scratched from competition.

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