Lainey Butler and Paige Lawson have been playing doubles tennis together since their freshman year. All that time, they haven’t made the state tournament.
Last year, as juniors at Gig Harbor High School, the pair was one match away from the Class 4A state tournament, serving as a state alternate.
This year, after dropping down to 3A, the seniors fully expect to make it to the state tournament, after going undefeated through the 3A South Sound Conference.
“This league has been easier,” said Butler, who is the daughter of the team’s coach, Pollyann Butler.
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Her candor isn’t misplaced, as the absence of schools like Olympia and Bellarmine has opened things up for the Tides. While dominating the league has been nice for the duo, reaching state has always been the goal.
“It was so upsetting when we didn’t make it last year,” Butler said. “We were one match away. I’ve been wanting to go to state since I was a freshman. Last year, we definitely thought we would get there. It would be incredible.”
Butler said Lawson is the more aggressive player of the two.
“Paige has a wicked forehand,” Butler said. “She’s pretty strong and aggressive. I’m on the backhand side and I’m pretty consistent, so that’s how we complement each other. She’s the more aggressive one, takes the risky shots, I’ll strategically place the ball more.”
Lawson said the pair have good chemistry together now.
“We’re pretty good friends outside of tennis, that makes it easier,” Lawson said. “We’re both really competitive. We work together really well.”
The pair’s only loss came in a non-league to Olympia, a 4A school still. Otherwise, it’s been smooth sailing for the seniors. Butler, again, was candid in her assessment of the duo’s chances to reach the state tournament this season.
“We’ll go to state, for sure,” she said.
The elder Butler is perhaps a little more cautiously optimistic than her daughter.
“I think they have a good chance to make it to state,” the coach said. “I know their goal is to make it there. I think they have a good chance. They’re really excited.”
If they make it, they’ll likely join junior Joyce Park, who took third in singles at the 4A state tournament last year as a sophomore. Barring an injury or another unlikely event, Park will be there.
On the boys side, sophomore Irvin Yi qualified for the state tournament in singles. Butler’s No. 1 doubles team, juniors Jason Small and Anthony Lusk, also qualified in the fall. The state tournament will take place in the spring.
“The (boys) will get to come out on (May) 8,” Butler said. “They’ll get to hit with the girls and get ready for state.”
For Lawson and Butler, the pair is hoping to make some noise at state as a final high school sendoff.
“When we get there, we want to play our best,” Lawson said. “It’s our senior year so we just want to go out there and do our best.”