Sports

Decatur duo wears league tennis crown

By COLE COSGROVE

Associate editor

In their third match together all year, playing on little more than raw skill and willpower, a Decatur senior and a Lakota Junior High ninth-grader teamed up to win the SPSL South doubles tennis title.

Brandon Abang, the senior, and Chris Rice, the junior high student playing for the high school team, beat the Curtis tandem of Shane Hendricks and Dan McMurrian 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 Wednesday afternoon.

“I really haven’t had an opportunity to work with them on doubles strategy,” Decatur coach Steve Escame said. “They’re doing what comes naturally.”

Both played singles during the regular season, Rice going 10-2 in Decatur’s No. 1 singles slot and Abang going 12-0 at No. 2.

But in the long run, Escame believes pairing them as a doubles team gives them the best chance to advance to the state tournament in the spring.

“Just putting them together now, by the time May rolls around they’ll be extremely competitive,” Escame said.

Abang and Rice faltered in the first set against Hendricks and McMurrian, losing 6-2. But between sets, Abang refocused and ate some Hostess Ho Hos — chocolate cake rolled with creamy filling. Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it worked.

“I was feeling dizzy and I couldn’t concentrate,” Abang said. “It’s not fair to him for me to let him down like that.”

Abang played stronger in the the second and third sets to help the pair gain momentum and win the match.

“He gets really pumped up and it gets me pumped,” Rice said. “We play the same style, we both go for hard shots.”

“Playing with Chris, I can trust him,” Abang said. “We can both raise the level of our games when we need to.”

But in Wednesday’s crossover match between the SPSL South and SPSL North champions, Abang and Rice lost to Auburn Riverside twin brothers and two-time state champs Dane and David Miller 6-0, 6-1.

Despite the temporary setback of the Millers standing in the way of a state championship, Decatur’s Escame has a history of teaming up singles players and sending them into the state tournament.

Rice’s older brother, Jeff, teamed with Ram Hernandez to win a state title in 1998. Nick Moxley and Chris Camarda also played singles before teaming to win a state championship in 1999.

Rice’s older sister teamed with Sirrah Williams to win a state doubles title in 2001.

Abang advanced to the West Central District tournament as a ninth-grader teamed with Gus Joo, but then tried singles the past two years.

“He wants to go to state and he wants to do well,” Escame said. “This is his last hurrah.”

In their first match together, Abang and Rice advanced to the semifinals with a win over Puyallup’s Casey Hart and Troy Nagata 6-2, 6-1, then advanced to the finals with a win over Jefferson’s Konrad Miernowski and Cole Wilson 6-0, 7-5.

Miernowski and Wilson are part of the reason Jefferson finished No. 2 in the team standings. Stuart Michnick was another huge factor, placing fifth in the singles division.

“We had a really good tournament,” Jefferson coach Andrew Buchan said about his team that finished third in the regular- season standings. “Expectations were so high because we’ve won seven titles in the past nine years. It’s a great tradition. But this year teams got better. Puyallup and Curtis had strong teams. It ups the ante.”

Jefferson sophomore Kenny Fritschy was somewhat of a surprise in winning his first two matches, including a second-round win over Emerald Ridge’s David Feltner 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

The West Central District tournament isn’t until next May, followed by the state tournament a week later.

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