Tennis postseason: Sheedy’s return big for the Decatur Gators; Stewart favored in 4A

Kenny Sheedy played in only three matches for the Decatur High School boys tennis team this fall. But the junior made a huge impact during those matches.

Sheedy was forced to sit out the first three-quarters of the year for the Gators after suffering some academic difficulties during the spring semester at Decatur last school year. The Federal Way school district has some of the highest academic standards for student-athlete participation an Sheedy didn’t meet them.

“I had two classes that I didn’t pass,” Sheedy said.

Before Sheedy’s return to the court, the Gators were a dismal 0-7 in the South Puget Sound League 3A Division. Following the return of Decatur’s best player, the Gators won their final three matches of the SPSL 3A season, including a 3-2 win over Peninsula in the regular season finale. The victory spoiled the Seahawks’ shot at the SPSL 3A championship. A win over Decatur would have assured Peninsula of the title.

“We pushed them back to second in the league,” said Decatur head coach John Cassens. “That felt pretty good. Who knows. If he was with us the entire season, we might have won the league title.”

The boys tennis is a little different than other sports because the fall season is condensed to avoid the cold and rainy weather that usually pops up in October. If Sheedy played football, he would have basically missed only four of 10 games. He was allowed to practice with the Decatur tennis team during his ineligibility, which he did everyday.

The return of Sheedy was just the shot in the arm that the Gators needed, Cassens said. While Sheedy was out, Decatur’s eight-man lineup was missing just one piece. His return meant the other seven players could occupy spots in the lineup which made winning matches and scoring points easier.

“Pushing the kids one spot up in the order was tough,” Cassens said. “Some of them just couldn’t quite handle it. But everybody’s attitude has been really good even when we were losing every match. This is a nice group of kids.”

Sheedy and the rest of his Decatur teammates started their postseason run Wednesday at the SPSL 3A Tournament. Sheedy is going to play doubles with senior partner J.J. Hegenauer, who just began playing tennis at Decatur this season.

“J.J. plays matches really smart,” Cassens said. “It’s something you don’t see in kids that don’t play that much tennis.”

Sheedy and Hegenauer, along with the tennis players from Federal Way, Beamer and Jefferson, are attempting to earn berths into the West Central/Southwest District Tournament. Sheedy and a different partner failed to make it past the SPSL Tournament a season ago.

“My goal is to go further than we did last year,” Sheedy said. “We want to make it to state.”

But this year, the tennis postseason in the South Puget Sound League is a little different than season’s past. For the first time in a long time, the West Central/Southwest District Tournament will be played in the fall, meaning players will know if they qualified for state later this month, instead of in the spring.

In the past, the district tournament was played a week prior to state in May. In Washington, different leagues throughout the state play in both the fall and spring, necessitating the State Tournament to be played in May.

Class 4A tennis

To say Federal Way’s Mitch Stewart is the favorite to win the Class 4A singles state championship would be doing the Eagle junior a disservice. Stewart rolled through the regular season unbeaten and was named the SPSL Central Player of the Year. To further illustrate his dominance, Stewart dropped only one game during the year when he beat TJ’s Alex Chan, 6-0, 6-1, the rest of his matches were 6-0, 6-0 shutouts.

Last year, Stewart finished unbeaten and won the 4A title as a sophomore and spent the summer playing in national-level tournaments in places like New York, Florida and Michigan, among others.

There are also several players from the SPSL Central champion Raiders that could play at the state tournament, including the doubles team of Zach and Cameron Martin, along with Chan and Lee in singles’ action. All four were all-league selections.

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