Jacob Flentke and James Bertheau could have been four-time state tennis placers.
They both made it as freshmen and did well. Flentke placed third in 4A doubles playing for Union while Bertheau placed fourth in 3A doubles playing for Mountain View.
Both qualified for state as sophomores in the fall of 2019 … then COVID. The pandemic wiped out their sophomore (2020) and junior (2021) state possibilities as no tournaments were held those springs.
Flentke and Bertheau were not going to be denied as seniors, together at Union.
They went undefeated in the fall season, winning the 4A Greater St. Helens League doubles team of the year. They then won the 4A bi-district title, dropping just four games, and earning a state berth.
And last month at Kennewick, they became just the second boys doubles team from Union to win a state title. They never lost a set all season.
For their outstanding season, Flentke and Bertheau are The Columbian’s All-Region boys tennis players of the year.
Both said they wanted to make this final trip to state something to remember.
“I was going to enjoy it more,” Bertheau said. “When I was a freshman I kinda felt I had to win. This was different.”
“I kind of took state for granted after that first year,” Flentke said. “I thought I’d go every year. Then COVID happened. So this time, I was going to enjoy it.”
Their toughest match of the year came in the state semifinals against Ben Borden and Evan Mueller of Wenatchee. The Titans duo needed a tiebreaker to win the first set and then took the second set for a 7-6 (5), 6-4 win.
“It was tense,” Bertheau said, adding he hadn’t seen either player before.
Flentke said he did a little scouting on the Internet and watched the quarterfinal to get an idea of how the Wenatchee team played.
End result was a spot in the finals against brothers Isaac and Jack Morrison of Richland, who Bertheau said he did know from previous tournaments. Flentke and Bertheau won 6-3, 6-0.
Not a bad pairing head coach David Heitsch made once both players were at Union.
“I paired them together because they both have a strong understanding of how doubles is played and they both work incredibly hard,” Heitsch said. “Two quiet guys but both are very competitive.”
Both players bring something different to the court, which makes them a tough out.
“I like the net more, being up front, and I think James likes crushing forehands,” Flentke said.
“I serve, and he puts away the volleys,” Bertheau said.
Just like they put away the state title.
“Heitsch paired us up because he felt we had the best chance to win state,” Bertheau said. “And sure enough he was right.”
Rest of All-Region boys tennis team
Tommy James, fr, Camas
Reached state semifinals, placed 6th; 4A bi-district champion; 4A Greater St. Helens League singles player of the year.
Matt Rudi, sr, Columbia River
Placed 4th at state; only lost 1 match all season; 2A bi-district champion; 2A GSHL player of the year.
Elijah Nelson, sr, Prairie
Placed 4th at state; 3A bi-district champion; 3A GSHL player of the year.
Mikey Nester, sr, and Ryan Gruber, sr, Ridgefield
Placed 5th at state; 2A GSHL doubles team of the year.
Trey Gillespie, sr, and Jeffery Tso, so, Mountain View
3A state qualifiers; placed 4th at 3A bi-district; 3A GSHL doubles team of the year.