John Stormans thought his baseball days were long behind him.
“The last time I played I was in sixth grade,” the Olympia High School senior said with a chuckle. “It had been a while.”
Stormans’ return to the sport wasn’t spurred by thoughts of championships or heroic walk-off home runs.
Nope. Chalk it up to good old-fashioned school spirit and peer pressure.
“All my friends were on the team,” said Stormans, one of the state’s premiere tennis players. “They had been trying to get me to turn out for a while. I’m really glad I did.”
Stormans, a pitcher for the Bears, helped Olympia to one of its deepest playoff runs in school history before losing in extra innings to defending state champion Kentwood in the Class 4A state quarterfinals last week.
While the triumphs on the field were certainly rewarding, they ultimately were trumped by the friendships, camaraderie and the team aspect of high school sports.
School spirit also matters to Stormans, who was frequently seen at football and basketball games as part of a student group of superfans.
“I love being a part of this school,” he said.
Stormans, less than a week removed from the end of baseball season, must quickly turn his attention to tennis. He begins his quest for a third state title at the 4A state tennis championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Columbia Basin Racquet Club in Richland.
“More than winning a singles championship, the best way to end my high school career would be to have our team win the overall team state championship,” said Stormans, who teamed with Hunter Wood to win the past two state doubles titles.
“Winning that would actually mean more to me than both the doubles titles I already have.”
In addition to Stormans, Olympia will send the doubles teams of Nate Stahley and Chad Wooten and Will Berghoff and Kyle Wooten to this weekend’s tournament.
With Wood graduated, Stormans took over the role as the Bears’ top singles player this season. He hasn’t missed a beat in the transition despite not having played singles at the high school level since his freshman year.
In an unusual format, boys high school tennis in Washington holds its regular season and district tournaments in the fall. The state tournament is held in May in conjunction with the girls tournament.
Because of the format, Stormans was able to play baseball, although he had to alter his normal tennis practice routine. During baseball season he practiced twice a week instead of his normal six times in order to accommodate baseball activities.
“The break during the tennis season certainly favors players who play year round,” Stormans said. “I think I’ve been able to get back into tennis shape pretty fast, though. I’m ready to go.”
He’ll need to be, given that the road to a title is filled with top players. His first-round opponent is Patrick Chung from Cascade of Everett, who he calls a “tough draw.” Also lurking is Alex Lee of Jefferson High, and there’s a potential matchup in the finals with Mitch Stewart of Federal Way, the defending state singles champion, if both get that far.
“My quarter of the bracket will be difficult,” Stormans said. “I could see Alex (Lee) in the second round. He’s a great player. And, of course, there’s Mitch waiting on the other side of the bracket.”
Stormans and Stewart are no strangers. They’ve teamed up to compete in several nationally recognized doubles tournaments over the years.
“He’s just phenomenal,” Stormans said, “but I’m confident in my play as well. Of course, it’s going to take my best effort to beat Mitch if I do play him. But no matter who you play here, you’re going to need to play your best to win.”
Stormans and Stewart last played each other in the 4A West Central District championship, with Stewart winning, 6-2, 6-2.
“Everyone in the building stopped to watch that match,” Olympia coach Denny Bailey said. “John and Mitch have every shot in the book. They are just on a whole different level than most high school players. I expect them to meet again in the state finals.”
Stormans thinks that would be a perfect way to end his high school career and turn to his college career. In the fall, Stormans will take his game to Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif.
“I’ve had so many great experiences here,” Stormans said. “(Winning a team state title) would really be a cool way to end it.”
State TENNIS championships
South Sound qualifiers
Class 4A at Columbia Basin Racquet Club and Richland High School, Richland
Olympia: Singles — John Stormans; doubles — Nate Stahley-Chad Wooten, Will Bergoff-Kyle Wooten
Class 3A at Tri-City Court Club and Kamiakin High School, Kennewick
North Thurston: Doubles — Jooneil Ahn-Scott Vannerson
Class 2A at Nordstrom Tennis Center, Seattle
Black Hills: Singles — Jimmy Do
Capital: Singles — Ty Gentry; Doubles -- Mathias Burlingame-Doug Doenges
Tumwater: Singles — Zach Drake; doubles — Ryan Gudbranson-Ryan Padgett
W.F. West: Doubles — Kenny Saari-Daniel Blomdahl
Class 4A at Columbia Basin Racquet Club/Richland High School, Richland
Olympia: Doubles — Rachel Kelson-Catty Zhang, Alli Bautista-Gemma Robinson
Class 3A at Tri-City Court Club/Kamiakin High School, Kennewick
North Thurston: Singles — Shanelle Enlow, Ainsley Winterrowd, Sidney Smith
Class 2A at Nordstrom Tennis Center, Seattle
Capital: Singles — Lauren McCann
Centralia: Singles — Anna Scheibmeir
Tumwater: Doubles — Rachel Howard-Madelyn Hougan, Emily Barclift-McKenzie Click
WHAT TO WATCH FOR