“Nothing short of a dream come true”


Dumas and Blake embrace after winning a match.

Halle Pratt

Preparing to serve, Jr. Kamryn Dumas bounces the ball three times with her racquet. The sun beats down on her from above as the heat from the court radiates into the soles of her shoes. She wipes the sweat from her forehead and places her feet just behind the service line. Her partner, Soph. Megan Blake, stands up at the net. Dumas focuses her attention on the serve and the chanting and screams of the team on the sidelines becomes muffled . “This is it,” Dumas thinks to herself. She draws back her racquet and strikes the ball, sending her punishing serve to the far corner of the service box. Her opponent from Troy High School scrambles to the ball, hitting a lob up to Blake. The ball approaches Blake from above. She feels the familiar rush of adrenaline. She slams the ball at the feet of her opponent, winning the semi-finals match point and sending them to the finals.

   With the upcoming season approaching quickly, it is essential to look back on the successes of West Ottawa Girls Varsity Tennis team, specifically last year’s remarkable fourth doubles.

   The team had an incredible 2021 season. Winning districts, regionals, and conference, the team advanced to state, where they placed seventh.

   “Last season was a gift.  Because the previous season was canceled due to Covid, there was a strong sense of appreciation just to be able to get together and do the thing we all love,” West Ottawa Girls Varsity Tennis Coach Pete Schwallier said.

   One flight of doubles however, stood out from the rest. Then Soph. Dumas and Frosh. Blake were unstoppable. “Our season was nothing short of a dream come true. We had an undefeated season and went 34-0,” Dumas said.

     Throughout the season, Dumas and Blake had practice every day after school with the rest of the team. “We’re lucky to have a thorough tennis program at WO, so we continued our lifting and agility training as well,” Dumas said.

   As the season progressed, Dumas and Blake won every match and received a medal from each championship. The two were seeded at state, a big accomplishment. 

   Coach Andy Blake, the weight training director for the team, quickly noticed the chemistry the girls had. “They were the perfect complement to each other. There really wasn’t a time when both were playing bad because they found a way to pick each other up and refocus. They are the perfect example of playing to have fun,” Andy said. 

   On June 4, 2021, about a week after the team won regionals, the girls loaded into the vans headed to Okemos where the state tournament was held at Mason High School. With their undefeated season, the fourth doubles team was eager to play the teams at state. Dumas and Blake shared a collective goal: To bring home a state title.

   “We were entering uncharted territory, because no one from West Ottawa had ever made it as far as we had. The teams on the east side of the state are very talented, so I wasn’t sure how everything was going to play out,” Dumas said.

   The pair had a “bye” their first match, which meant they were immediately moved to the second round. When it was time for them to play, however, Dumas and Blake had the same mindset: “We work harder. We have the mojo. We believe in our skills,” Dumas said.

   The fourth doubles played Traverse City West, Utica Eisenhower, and Troy during the first day of the tournament. And, to no surprise, the dynamic duo beat all three.

Dumas and Blake walking to talk to Schwallier between sets.

   The girls were inspired by the parents, coaches, and especially the team, who watched and cheered for each match. “What inspired me the most was how the tennis community came together to support Kam and I. I just felt so loved,” Blake said.

   During the first day of matches, Dumas had the opportunity to watch her inspiration in action. “My sister Kennedy had lost her first match at state, meaning that she was done and wouldn’t continue to play. I went over to hug and comfort her and she whispered to me, “You have to win now, okay?” That was the turning point for me. Megan and I were there to win. It was up to us,” Dumas said.

   On June 6, Dumas and Blake had a head start to the courts to prepare for their final match. The two warmed up together, trying to push aside their ever-growing nerves. 

   “During our warm up, Kam ran to the bathroom before we started, and sitting there alone I started to feel the pressure of the next match. For the few minutes she was gone I was holding back tears because I was nervous for the match. As soon as Kam got back, her presence was enough to make me feel more comfortable and in that moment I was so grateful that I got to be partners with my best friend,” Blake said.

   Dumas, Blake, and the rest of the team had to wait for six hours, in the 100 degree heat, for an available court. At two o’clock, it was finally showtime. Dressed in black and white, repping their Panther pride, they made their way to the court to meet their opponents from Bloomfield Hills. 

   Entering the court, the feeling of gratefulness began to set in. “I remember thinking how thankful I was to be there. It hit me then and there that our season was miraculous. We had defeated so many odds. I remember being strangely calm and confident,” Dumas said.

   The cheering from the team and the West Ottawa parents were contagious for Dumas and Blake. There was a fire within the girls. They were there to win. 

   Dumas and Blake had a three hour long battle against their Bloomfield Hills opponents, Grace Bickersteth and Ellie Alberts. The set scores were close, leaving the girls to play a tie breaker.

   After winning the tie break, Dumas and Blake had one final point. Dumas took her place at the base line where she would be serving. Blake stood at the net, her mind racing. “Before the point had started I was already nervous. I realized how big this point was in that moment and the importance that I played my best. She hit a serve and when I contacted the ball I knew it felt off. I popped the ball up to the girl waiting at the net and I thought ‘there goes that point,”’ Blake said.

   Blake watched the ball whizz pass her as her opponent on the other side of the net sent the ball back. “I didn’t even see the ball hit the ground, and when Kamryn called the ball out I trusted her judgment completely,” Blake said. 

   The West Ottawa team, coaches, and parents immediately erupted in cheers. The girls jumped up and down and ran onto the court to congratulate Dumas and Blake. The fourth doubles state title did not only belong to Dumas and Blake, but to the whole team. 

   “During the final match, I was so in the moment. When we won match point, I didn’t even realize that that meant we had won the whole thing. Our audience rushed the court and I began to cry tears of joy, making Megan cry, and then everyone began to cry. It was an underdog moment and it was magical,” Dumas said. 

   “It felt like walking in slow motion as I approached Kam and I watched as she realized what we had just done. Then neither of us could stop crying and in that moment I was so grateful to be surrounded by the team,” Blake said.

   “The moment was electric. Kam and Megan were so focused on the task at hand that it took them a split second to realize that it was over and they were state champs.  Everyone on the sidelines of course knew immediately, and it was an eruption.  I still remember each hug as vividly as when they happened in real time,” said Schwallier.

   “When they won I was in shock. The girls lost count of the score in the game so when Kam called the ball out, it took a second to realize they won. The amount of pride as a parent and coach for Megan, Kam, and the whole team was indescribable. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it,” said Andy.

   As for Dumas and Blake’s teammates, they were ecstatic to take home a state title for West Ottawa. “When Kam and Megan won all I can remember is jumping over the fence and running towards them, all of us were crying and so proud of them and everything they were able to accomplish during the season,” said then Soph. Chloe Duckworth.

Blake and Dumas pose with their championship plaques.

   The excitement from the win still lives on in the hearts of the team. Winning the title proved that the hard work, commitment, and overall passion for the sport had paid off.

   Dumas and Blake work well together in three ways. “Physically, because they work every day to be in peak shape. Mentally, because they stay in the moment. And, emotionally, because they love and trust each other.   But let’s not dwell only on them.  This describes our whole team, every single person,” Schwallier said. 

   The group of girls work so well together because of the strong bonds they built during the season. “We work hard because of our commitment and love for the sport and each other; when we win a match it not only benefits us, but the whole team, and we always had that in mind,” Duckworth said.

   The team has been working hard in preparation for the spring season starting in two weeks. From classes, private lessons, and weight training, the girls are ready to dominate on the courts.

   “I’m honestly just excited to have a good time. Tennis is supposed to be fun after all. I’m looking forward to the memories I’ll make this year with the team that I love so dearly,” Dumas said. 

   “Since they won state, I feel like it has changed us in a way to push even harder and set higher goals for ourselves; however, as a group, we are the same team with the same bonds,” Duckworth said.

   As Andy’s role of weight training director is expanding, he is eager to work with the team again this year. “I will be involved more with on court drills to help with conditioning for varsity and JV. I’m just looking forward to watching tennis.  Can’t wait to see you girls hang another conference and regional title and make some noise at state,” Andy said.

The team at state after the victory.

   From a coaching perspective, Schwallier’s goals are to “value relationships, hard work, and personal growth above wins and losses, both for myself, the coaches, players, and all of their families.  But this program is composed of hyper competitive individuals, so obviously seeking out wins and titles is very much on our minds. Let’s go WO,” Schwallier said.

Be sure to come out and support the team this spring! This season won’t be one to miss.