Sports

Joel & Josh

He’s the underdog.

The new No. 2 guy.

The next best thing.

But if the Bremerton boys tennis team didn’t harbor No. 1 singles player Joel Trudel, Josh Scheuing would be the king of the mountain.

He’s got all the traits of a champion — from the white-knuckle intensity to the solid groundstroke shots and serve — but he’s missing one thing.

Experience.

The sophomore only started playing the green-courted game in 1999, but he has risen a steady role next to fellow sophomore Trudel on Bremerton’s squad.

Both of them qualified for the Narrows League tournament which started yesterday and concludes this afternoon at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

After surviving the preliminary tournament last week in South Kitsap, the League tournament features the top 16 singles players and the top 16 doubles teams.

Many of them have faced each other in the season, but now is when it all really counts with a shot at districts next May on the line.

Bremerton coach Ursula Huhta said surviving the tournament often depends on the luck of the draw. As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Trudel opens against the No. 15 seed.

Scheuing’s luck wasn’t quite as fortunate. He plays Bellarmine Prep’s Scott Kennell in first round. Kennell is the tournament’s No. 1 seed and the overwhelming favorite after rolling through the season undefeated.

“I don’t know if I can beat him because he’s a strong player, but I’ve heard that if you just return his serve and stay consistent you can have a chance,” Scheuing said.

Regardless, Scheuing vowed at the beginning of last week to go for broke in practice.

“I’ll really try to work on my serve. I’ll also have to work on my backhand and work on being consistent,” he said.

The two from Bremerton also have to survive an early morning commute to Tacoma. Scheuing and Trudel met their coach for a ride at 6:15 a.m. at Bremerton High on Friday.

When asked if he could perform so early in the morning, Scheuing said he had a plan.

“I usually wake up early so I’m not all groggy,” he said, adding that he planned on hopping on the treadmill for a few minutes and jumping rope before Friday’s and Saturday’s matches.

Trudel also planned on suiting-up early for his first-round match against Bellarmine Prep’s No. 3 Matt McNeal at 8 a.m. Friday. Trudel had a nearly perfect season with his only loss coming against Kennell who also defeated him in last May’s district tournament.

“I get up at least an hour before and then I’ll be more adapted to be up early,” Trudel said.

“Joel will probably do pretty well,” Schueing said.

Even though Trudel has a good chance to reach the finals of the tournament (where he’ll likely re-face Kennell), the season won’t be over for Scheuing if he doesn’t win his first match since there’s always the consolation draw.

If Scheuing loses, he’ll get tossed into a pot with all the other players who were defeated. The winner of the consolation rounds advances to districts in the spring, along with the top players of the winners’ bracket.

Whatever happens, Huhta is proud of her team this year. The 12-3 record is the best they’ve ever posted, she said.

“We beat everybody on this side of the bridge so we felt that was a real accomplishment,” Huhta said.

Bremerton sent two doubles teams to the preliminary tournament of the Narrows league, but they were eliminated.

For the No. 1 doubles team Dan Fisher and Dean Jacobs, both seniors, it was their last chance. But junior Chris Gonzales, who played with senior Ryan Hinrichsen, at No. 2 doubles, is hoping for another solid season next year.

Besides Bremerton’s respectable season record, coach Huhta made a bet with the team that if they won a match 5-0 she’d throw them a pizza party. They ended up earning two pizza parties, and left Huhta with the lingering realization: It’s amazing what pizza can do.

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