Rice rolls to South singles title

ports editor

Chris Rice can add another patch for his letterman’s jacket.

The Decatur sophomore completed a rare double last week on the tennis court. A year after winning the South Puget Sound League South Division doubles title with partner Brandon Abang, Rice downed Emerald Ridge’s Greg Ferry Tuesday, 6-1, 6-3, to take the South singles championship.

“I played pretty good,” Rice said following his dominant win.

It now turns into a waiting game. In the sport of tennis, like golf, the state tournament is held in the spring due to the fact that other schools around Washington don’t play their regular seasons until March. A situation that can be a disadvantage to the leagues that play in the fall, like the South Puget Sound League.

But that doesn’t seem to bother Rice. It just gives him more time to get better on the court.

“That can really hurt you if you don’t practice as much as you should be,” Rice said. “But I’ll be playing a lot.”

The sophomore is already a veteran of the postseason grind. Last year as a freshman, Rice rolled into the state tournament with Abang, who graduated last spring. The pair won the SPSL South title and advanced to the quarterfinals at the state tournament before losing a pair of matches in Kennewick — failing to place.

This year, Rice’s goal is to bring home a state tournament medal, which seems to be a good possibility. After downing Ferry in the SPSL South final, Rice went on to play Auburn Riverside’s Kyle Schraeder — the SPSL North champ — in a crossover match for the 17-team SPSL title on Wednesday. Rice was beating Schraeder, 7-6 (7-2), 3-2, in the match when rain started falling at Auburn Riverside. The match was continued Thursday (after press time). The winner earned the SPSL’s No. 1-seed into the district tournament.

“He’s my doubles partner,” Rice said about Schraeder. The two play together on the summer circuit.

The relatively easy victory over Ferry was only the second time the Emerald Ridge senior has lost a singles match during his four-year career. Both have come at the hands of Rice in the last two weeks. Rice downed Ferry during the regular season in a three-setter. Before that, Ferry had won over 30 matches in a row and the last two SPSL South titles.

“You have to be really steady when you are play Sing him,” Rice said. “You can’t really go for too much. I just tried to keep the ball in play.”

The strategy worked. The two split the first two games of the match, before Rice went on a seven-game winning streak to win the first set 6-1 and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the second. Ferry then fought back to tie the second set at 3-3 before Rice broke Ferry’s serve to go up 4-3.

“I served good,” Rice said.

Jefferson will also be represented at spring’s West Central Tournament. The doubles team of Kenny Fritschy and Todd Schultz finished up in sixth place in the SPSL after losing to Kentridge’s Aron Anderson and Eric Hall in the crossover match, 6-3, 6-4. Fritschy and Schultz downed Decatur’s Tim Blackner and Travis Wagner in the consolation bracket finals to place third in the SPSL South.

Wagner and Blacker failed to qualify for districts after defaulting to Kentwood’s In-Huek Song and Danny Lee in Wednesday’s crossover match. Only the top-seven teams advanced.

Federal Way singles player Eric Ryan also got the short end of the final crossover match. Ryan was downed by Enumclaw’s Trevor Laush, 6-4, 6-4, in the seventh/eighth match, ending Ryan’s season.

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