Trojan tennis tandems pair up late, but are heading to state

Humble beginnings? Travis Hanley and Josh Jeter didn’t even have those. Neither did Mariah Siemion and Peyton Prothero.

Humble beginnings? Travis Hanley and Josh Jeter didn’t even have those. Neither did Mariah Siemion and Peyton Prothero.

Back at the beginning of their respective tennis seasons at Auburn High – last fall for Hanley and Jeter, earlier this spring for Siemion and Prothero – they weren’t even playing together.

But they are now. And this weekend, they’ll be playing together at the Class 3A state tournament in Kennewick.

The two Trojan tandems grabbed the final available state berths last Saturday in the West Central-Southwest District tournament at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway with straight-set victories in winner-to-state, loser-out matches.

Jeter and Hanley, down 4-1 to Yelm’s Cody Leinback and Louis DeGeyer in the first set, stormed back for a 6-4, 6-2 win to claim their state tickets. Siemion and Prothero turned aside a gritty effort from Shelton’s Kathyn Barbero and Emma Leimback, who fought off four match points before two Trojans prevailed on the fifth try to close out a 6-1, 6-2 decision.

“Whenever we’re down, we can come back,” said Jeter, who, like Hanley, started last fall in singles until Auburn coach Phil Smetheram suggested about halfway through the season that the two of them pair up. “They’re both good players (from Yelm). They were putting pressure on us, but we were playing the way we wanted to.”

Their path to state included a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3) loser-out win against Evergreen’s Andy To and Daniel Nguyen that kept their hopes alive.

“That was the most intense match,” Hanley said, adding that a state trip began to seem more realistic “after we got that one.”

Siemion, a junior, and Prothero, a freshman, joined forces at the suggestion of girls coach Crystal Wisness in mid April. Coming into the South Puget Sound League tournament as seventh seeds, they made a surprising run to the finals before settling for second.

At district, they pulled out their second three-set victory in a week against Enumclaw’s Taylor Hart and Gabby Engelhard to stay alive. They had the upper hand all afternoon in the winner-to state match against Shelton.

“When we first started, we weren’t quite sure what was going to happen,” Siemion said, then, knowing that her season still had another week to go, added with a smile, “I’m used to being done with tennis by now.”

“We thought we were just playing for the alternate (spot),” Prothero said . “Then we found out it was for state. We’re ecstatic.”

Auburn sophomore Sandy Dennett, further establishing herself as an area on-court force, won three of her four matches to take fourth place and a state spot in girls singles. Riverside’s Holtgraves and Craft will go as the sixth seed from district in girls doubles.