City schools hope to continue tennis success in SPSL

Year in and year out, Andrew Buchan and the Thomas Jefferson boys tennis team is right in the mix for the South Puget Sound League North Division title.

Buchan is entering his 17th year at the helm of the Raider program and this year’s team should be another contender. Jefferson returns a solid core of five players from last year’s team that finished in fourth place in the SPSL North with an 8-6 record.

Back for the Raiders are West Central District tournament qualifiers Joe Lee and Branden Muraki, along with senior Derek Moore and juniors Kevin Park and Ty Garceau. Lee made it to districts in singles a season ago as a freshman and cruised in his opening match Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Decatur’s Harry Choi. Muraki played doubles with now graduated Sam Yi a season ago.

“Joe and Branden are two of the top returning players in the league,” Buchan said.

But the Raiders did lose five players to graduation from last year’s team and Moore is the lone senior on the roster.

Buchan also brings in several newcomers that should prove to be solid point scorers for the Raiders. Underclassmen Chase McLaughlin, Dai Yi, Makoa Rosa, Brandyn Gomez, Kyle Creek, Nevin Ramanujan and Narayana Lund should see plenty of varsity action and that bodes well for the future, as well as the present.

“Despite the youth, this team has a great deal of experience on the tennis court,” Buchan said. “Each of the newcomers had a strong tennis resume and should help immediately. As the season progresses and the young players gain high school experience, this team will improve quickly.”

The Raiders rolled over cross-town rival Decatur in both teams’ season opener on Tuesday afternoon, 5-0.

“We are a young team with only one senior,” Buchan said. “However, the youth at TJ is very talented and experienced in the (United States Tennis Association). We should be one of the better teams in a strong northern division.”

Decatur Gators

The Gators are hoping to bounce back from last season when they finished just 4-10 in the South Puget Sound League North Division. Decatur has been one of the top tennis programs around for the last several years and is looking to get back on top.

“I think we will be a little better than last year,” said second-year coach John Cassens.

Helping on the improvement will be four returners from a season ago, including seniors John An, Charlie Chu and Alex Khudoliy and sophomore Harry Choi.

Those four will be helped by a pair of newcomers in Devin Murphy and Alex Eddy, who will replace five players that Cassens lost to graduation last year — Austin Decker, Dean Williams, Hari Kumar, David Choi and John Geise.

“Our doubles teams will have to step up,” Cassens said. “Our team weakness is inexperience.”

The Gators will take on the Kentlake Falcons Tuesday in their third match of the SPSL North season.

Federal Way Eagles

The Eagles should field their best team in several years this season. Federal Way basically returns its entire lineup from a team that finished 10-4 in the SPSL North Division. The record was good for third place.

Back for head coach Jerome Collins are junior Jake Stewart, seniors Jesse Johnson, Brian Shaw, Matt Dahl, Matt Christopher and Jordan Moran and sophomore Max Ward. The only loss from last year’s team was the graduation of Randall Ventura.

Stewart played last season as Federal Way’s No. 1 singles player and proved to be one of the better players in the league.

The Eagles kicked off their SPSL North season on Tuesday with a 4-1 win over Kentlake. Stewart won his opening match at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-0, Johnson was impressive at No. 2 with a 6-1, 6-0 win.

Beamer Titans

The Todd Beamer Titans enter the 2007 season with a new coach. Brent Brilhante takes over the program from Jeff Richards, who had coached the Beamer boys during their first four seasons in the South Puget Sound League. Brilhante has worked as an assistant coach on the Decatur boys basketball team for the last several years.

But Richards didn’t leave the cupboard bare. The Titans return plenty from last year’s SPSL South championship team, including senior Kyle Christensen and are the perennial favorite to win their second consecutive title.

“He is the top returning senior in the (Federal Way school district) and is probably the second best player in the entire South SPSL,” said TJ coach Andrew Buchan.

Other strong returners for the Titans will be senior Charles Chan, junior Cory Zalewski and sophomore Sean O’Brien.

“I am anticipating a very good year with a chance at winning our league,” Brilhante said. “We are very deep and are led by some of the league’s best players.”

The Titans opened up SPSL South play on Tuesday with a 5-0 win over Rogers and lost a total of 16 games during the match.

“I have enjoyed these kids and they all seem to be not only great tennis players, but fun kids to coach,” Brilhante said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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