Philomath High School junior Bailey Bell acknowledges that she’s a competitive person, perhaps even a perfectionist — whether she’s competing in a sport, performing in the classroom or playing a board game against family and friends.
On the tennis court, Bell couldn’t do any better than she did during the regular season against district opponents. She won all of her matches, 6-0, 6-0, to accomplish a very rare feat.
Greg Thorson, who has been coaching high school tennis for several years and is in his second season at the helm of the PHS girls program, said he’s never seen a player come close to what Bell pulled off.
“Particularly in the age of no-ad scoring,” Thorson pointed out.
No-ad scoring is a time-saving measure that when a game goes to deuce (40-40), the player who wins the next point wins the game. Under standard rules, a player has to win by two points in order to win.
“It really favors the inferior player because they only have to win one point to get a game off of you rather than two,” Thorson said. “It’s so easy just to miss one shot here and the other person makes a nice shot and you lose your focus.”
But that never happened in Bell’s matches. An exceptional level of focus is just one part of the game in which she dominates.
“Her focus is so good and her footwork is phenomenal,” Thorson said. “Her anticipation — she’s rarely out of position to win a point and hit a winner.”
Philomath High School’s tennis teams are competing Thursday and Friday in the final two days of the 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2 tournament in Salem. Bell opened district play Tuesday at Estacada and as expected, Bell took a 6-0, 6-0 victory over a Junction City freshman.
“I don’t really think much of it … I just played my best and the results are what they are,” Bell said when asked about her exceptional district record. “I would love to have more competitive matches for sure.”
Bell said she feels her game has been pretty consistent overall.
“I think my serve has gotten a little bit better over the season but other than that, I’ve just tried to keep everything going,” she said.
Bell was scheduled to face a Marist Catholic senior in the second round Thursday (the action got started at 8:30 a.m.) and if she advanced, would move into the quarterfinals against the winner of a match between North Marion and Cascade players.
“I have a lot of fun at districts; it’s really cool to have all the teams coming together in one spot,” Bell said. “I just try to stay focused and play my game and go from there and try to get on a little bit of a roll going into state.”
Based on Bell’s record, a trip to the state tournament seems probable. Scheduled for May 19-20 at Oregon State University, she sees a considerable shift from the experience at districts. Last year, she reached the 4A/3A/2A/1A semifinals and finished fourth overall.
“It’s being adaptable and flexible in my game and knowing that there’s going to be challenges and things that are going to push me,” she said, “and being able to keep my focus and maintain the things that I know I’m good at and play to my strengths.”
Another singles player, sophomore Adele Beckstead, has dominated in the No. 2 spot with an unbeaten record. Beckstead is seeded No. 2 at districts and opened Tuesday with a 6-0, 6-0 win over a Creswell freshman.
Bell’s regular-season records puts her on a different level than the rest of those in districts.
“Nobody wants to play her but they don’t have a choice,” Thorson said. “With neither her nor Adele is there anybody in our league that can beat them. I told them that ‘nobody can beat you but you can lose if you make mistakes and make stupid decisions.’”
Elsewhere in singles play from the first day, junior Megan Reese dropped a 6-0, 6-1 match to Marist senior Reeve Helvoigt. She regrouped to defeat Creswell sophomore Camryn Stubbs in a consolation match, 8-4. Junior Elise Reese dropped a 6-2, 6-0 decision to Molalla junior Kayden Harris and came back to win in consolations over Junction City junior Hannah Walker, 9-8.
In doubles, senior Phoebe Dodson and junior Daniella Carlisle advanced out of the first round with a 6-0, 6-2 win over their Stayton opponents. Juniors Nadia Durski and Lorelei Schell also beat a pair from Stayton, 6-3, 6-3.
Seniors Mia Cook and Stella Neville lost to a Marist Catholic team, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Cook and Neville won by default in the consolation bracket to reach Thursday’s action. PHS freshmen Olivia Cole and Lucie Oster lost to a team from Marist Catholic, 6-0, 6-0, in the first round and was eliminated in consolations with an 8-5 loss against a team from Estacada.
Philomath and Marist Catholic will be fighting it out for the district tournament title. The two teams finished the dual season tied for first place.
Thorson headed into the final two days of the district tournament with confidence but in such events with high stakes, surprises do occur.
“You know, maybe the other girls play better and they don’t play quite as well, it gets closer and then people get nervous and you never know what happens,” Thorson said.