Los Angeles Times

Perrier, Byers getting the job done

Earlier this week, an Edison High tennis player asked Newport Harbor seniors Sean Perrier and Garrett Byers if they were twins.

Perrier and Byers play No. 1 doubles together for the Sailors. They both stand 5-foot-11. But twins?

"I don't think we look alike," Byers said.

Still, they say that you become like who you spend the most time with. And Perrier and Byers definitely have spent a lot of time together over the past four years.

They have grown up together in the Newport Harbor tennis program. Ever since midway through freshman year, they have been a doubles team. They won the junior varsity league doubles title as freshmen, and have just kept building. Their sophomore year, they played at No. 2 doubles. The last two years, they have been the Sailors' No. 1 doubles team and team captains.

And their friendship off the court has gotten stronger and stronger.

"Garrett's my best friend," Perrier said. "It's definitely nice playing with your best friend."

Opposing teams probably don't feel the same way. Perrier and Byers have almost always ended up on the winning end this year for the Sailors.

Their teamwork on the court is more apparent than ever. In the past, frustration might seep in after a tough point or game, but not now.

"We've just gotten stronger mentally," Byers said. "Now it's just us and the game. We're not playing in our own heads, we're playing in the heads of the people that we play."

The Daily Pilot Athletes of the Week are 30-3 this year for the Sailors, who have their best team in years. Newport Harbor is 9-2, and 2-1 in the Sunset League. The record doesn't include tournaments, and the Sailors captured the four-team Lightning Invitational last weekend at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

Perrier and Byers went 3-0 in the tournament in doubles, earning doubles MVP honors. They were proud of the showing, especially after Newport Harbor beat Crean Lutheran, a team that handed the Sailors their only nonleague loss earlier this year.

The Sailors' No. 1 tandem beat Sage Hill and Crean Lutheran teams by scores of 6-4 and got past Tesoro, 6-2.

"They're completely tapping out at their full potential this year," Newport Harbor Coach Kristen Case said. "They're the most confident I've ever seen them ... They're focused on the court but also just having fun. They really enjoy competing."

Perrier and Byers are behind a lot of the Sailors' success this year. So is junior No. 1 singles player Reese Stalder, who is 25-0 and is all the way up to No. 7 in Southern California in the boys' 18s. And the Sailors' other team captain, junior David Schaefer, has played well with his partner Phillip Vu.

Then there is the rowdy influence that senior football players Eddie Nolan and Garrett Hall, as well as former boys' volleyball player Peirce Ward, have brought to the squad.

"We have a new energy," Byers said. "Tennis, most players are used to quiet relaxation. Having them inspires everyone to be more rowdy. It makes it more fun. It makes everyone play better, and it makes the [opponent] play a lot worse. I think having that is really key to why we're doing so well this year.

"Tennis players are, I think, not used to being mentally strong enough to deal with that. This year, we don't get down as much because we're beating each other up every day [in practice], talking smack across the net and stuff. We're used to it, and other teams aren't."

The home crowds have gotten a lot bigger. Everyone likes a winner, especially a team that wins in style.

"This has been the most hype the school has had with tennis," Perrier said. "The people that show up to home matches here, it's the kind of stuff I dreamed about my sophomore and junior year. Even when we played some of the huge teams, we would have bogus crowds. This year, we're playing the lower-end teams and we still have an amazing crowd. It's crazy. It's awesome. It's like it's real this year. We're just a really great team."

Perrier and Byers hope to continue winning during league. The Sailors suffered their first league loss to Fountain Valley, ranked No. 5 in Orange County, by a 12-6 score on Thursday. Next week, there are big matches against No. 3 Los Alamitos and Marina.

Perrier and Byers won't be intimidated. The team goals this year are to win league and make it past the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, where the Sailors have lost each of the last two seasons.

As a doubles team, Perrier and Byers want to make it to at least the finals of the league tournament for the first time, which would in turn qualify them for CIF Individuals for the first time.

"It'd be cool if [Stalder] won the league individual tournament for singles and we won the doubles one," Byers said. "That would be really cool. It's a good goal."

College plans are still a bit up in the air. Perrier might go to TCU, but he's also on the wait list at SMU. TCU also is a possibility for Byers, who also may end up at USC. Byers wasn't accepted to USC, but he said he is appealing the decision.

If Perrier and Byers do both end up at TCU, watch out.

"It's a little fantasy that Garrett and I have, going to TCU and continuing to play club tennis," Perrier said. "If we could play doubles for four more years, that would be pretty sweet."

Sweet, like their game.

Sean Perrier

Born: Feb. 11, 1996

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-11

Sport: Tennis

Year: Senior

Coach: Kristen Case

Favorite food: Italian food

Favorite movie: "The Last Samurai"

Favorite athletic moment: Winning the Sunset League JV doubles tournament with Garrett Byers as a freshman.

Week in review: Perrier and partner Garrett Byers won three times in doubles to help Newport Harbor win the Lightning Invitational.

Garrett Byers

Born: Nov. 23, 1995

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-11

Sport: Tennis

Year: Senior

Coach: Kristen Case

Favorite food: Frozen pizza at Sean's

Favorite movie: "Life of Pi"

Favorite athletic moment: Winning the Sunset League JV doubles tournament with Sean Perrier as a freshman.

Week in review: Byers and partner Sean Perrier won three times in doubles to help Newport Harbor win the Lightning Invitational.

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