Decatur pair wins tennis title

"At breakfast Saturday morning you could overhear some parents from Olympia complaining about the weather in Kennewick. It's too windy, a mother said, Eastern Washington has an unfair advantage.Someone forgot to tell Joanna Rice and Sirrah Williams from Decatur High because they went 4-0 and won the class 4A high school girls doubles state championship Saturday in Kennewick. Along the way they defeated three of the four entries from Eastern Washington: East Valley of Spokane in round 1, Shadle Park in the semifinals, and Gonzaga Prep in the finals. Decatur wasn't the only Federal Way school to find success in the wind. Federal Way High doubles team January Chay and Robyn Turney-Loos placed sixth. They probably would have finished fourth except that Federal Way High School's prom conflicted with the consolation final. Thomas Jefferson's doubles team of Mary Buchan and Janice Jung also had a successful tournament, placing seventh. So yes, there was a lot of wind, but it seems to only impact Western Washington schools outside of Federal Way.The singles draw was held indoors at the Tri-City Court Club and while wind was not a factor, the South Puget Sound League was. Nick Moxley from Decatur and Ricky Butenko from Bethel cruised into the finals of boys singles without a single set getting closer than 6-3. They met for the fifth time this season. Four of those match-ups were in tournament finals. For the third straight time, Butenko came out on top Saturday, 6-1, 7-5. The win gave Bethel a share of second place along with Lewis & Clark, while Decatur finished with a tie for third with Wenatchee. Cascade of Everett won the boys team title.Williams and Rice's victory also helped Decatur to a third-place finish in the girls team competition. Inglemoor won, followed by Gonzaga Prep.Decatur coach Steve Escame knew Rice and Williams had a shot at the state title, but was concerned when their matches became tight.I think if they had been playing at the top of the game they would have run through the tournament with much easier matches, Escame said. I didn't think they were playing well. Maybe I didn't give enough respect to the other teams.Rice and Williams teamed up just once for a doubles match during the SPSL season. The Gator pair prepared for the district and state tournaments by taking lessons and playing non-league matches together.It wasn't that hard to get used to (each other). We went to lessons and started hitting with each other, said Rice, whose brother, Jeff, played in the boys singles title match last spring. I just knew if we played good we could win. I've been to state before you can't really expect (to win). You just have to play hard.Their toughest match came in the finals against Marissa FLinders and Marie Carroll of Gonzaga Prep. The Decatur duo lost the first set 7-5, before rebounding for a 6-0 win in the second.We came back strong in the second set. We came to the net and put away shots, Rice said. In the third set, we were up 5-3 and I think we got a little nervous.The nervousness translated into another close set, which Rice and Williams pulled out 7-5 to win the title.I was shocked at first, Rice said. But now, it's wow we're the state champions.For Moxley, it was simply a case of facing an opponent playing at the top of his game. Butenko won the first set 6-1.Ricky was just out of his mind. I have not witnessed a better high school player up until Ricky's final match with Nick, Escame said. Nick came off the court after the first set and said, 'I can't believe he's that hot.'Moxley took control in the beginning of the second set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead.All of the sudden from out of nowhere came Ricky-Superman, Escame said. It wasn't typical high school tennis where you wait for the other guy to play himself out of the match. Ricky just picked up his level. I thought that Nick played an outstanding match.Butenko won the next six games to take the set and the state title 7-5.In girls singles, Rebecca Lee from Federal Way High School was the only local entry. Rebecca won a consolation match before ending her career with a loss to Olympia's Sarah Borkowski. In team competition, Federal Way finished tied for eighth, and Thomas Jefferson finished tied for 13th.In boys doubles Federal Way was represented by John Chapin and Aaron Miller. In their second match the Federal Way High School seniors played a tight 7-5 set before losing. Bellarmine had two teams alive on the second day of competition: Sean McPhee and Thomas Bowden shared seventh place with Adam Hallstone and Luke Hallstone.The rest of Western Washington better get used to the wind because it looks like Kennewick will be hosting the 4A tennis tournament for the next three years. If they don't that's just fine with Federal Way, however, because we will continue to put players into finals. Sirrah Williams and Joanna Rice are only juniors as are January Chay, Janice Jung, and Mary Buchan."

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