Rice wins state tennis championship


Sports editor

Chris Rice is only a sophomore, but he is now a state champion.

Rice, from Decatur, easily rolled to the Class 4A state singles title Saturday at Spokane’s University High School. For the second time in two weeks, Rice beat Central Kitsap’s Francisco Carrasquero. Last week it was at the West Central/Southwest District Tournament and Saturday it was for the state championship. Rice rolled by Carrasquero 6-1, 6-3 in the final match.

It was Rice’s second appearance at the state tournament. Last year, as a freshman, Rice teamed with senior Brandon Abang in doubles’ competition. The pair failed to place.

Rice’s run to the state title started with an easy first-round victory over Eastlake’s Ted Hickey, 6-3, 6-1, followed by a 6-1, 6-0 win over Mt. Spokane’s Logan Napolsky in the quarterfinals. The two wins set up what might have been the real state championship match against Hudson’s Bay’s Spencer Mendoza — who won the title last year as a freshman.

Mendoza won the opening set, 6-3, but Rice rolled back to take the final two sets, 6-4, 6-2, to earn the berth into the championship.

Rice wasn’t the only Federal Way school district athlete to place at the Class 4A tennis championships. Beamer’s Judy Liening and Megan Havili ended up fourth in the girls doubles bracket and Jefferson’s Katie Schultz and Corinna Fabre finished up in sixth place. Decatur’s Jamie Chan lost her first two matches on Friday.

The two doubles’ teams had very similar runs at their first state tournaments. Both lost excruciating opening-round matches on Friday morning. Liening, a freshman, and Havili, a sophomore, squandered four match points in a three-set loss to an Edmonds-Woodway pair, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, and Schultz and Fabre lost to a Redmond team 7-6, 7-6.

“Both teams were terribly disappointed in their start,” said TJ coach Andrew Buchan. “But soon after those two matches were over a strange phenomenon occurred. The four girls shared lunch together, got over their misfortune, and formed a bond that lasted through the end of the tournament.”

In the first round of consolations, both teams split sets winning the first and losing the second.

“They got off their courts at the same time and instead of using the 10-minute break to get coaching, the girls got together and focused on meeting each other in the consolation final,” Buchan said.

Schultz and Fabre won first with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory over a Davis pair, then Liening and Havili came off the court with very same score. In the consolation quarterfinals, TJ beat the Edmonds-Woodway team which had previously beaten Beamer and Liening and Havili beat the Redmond team that had beaten Schultz and Havili.

The wins advanced both teams into Saturday’s consolation semifinals, where Schultz and Fabre beat a Richland team, while Liening and Havili downed a Shorewood pair.

This set up a match between the two teams in the consolation final on Saturday afternoon. Liening and Havili dominated the match, 6-0, 6-0, to earn fourth.

“Both players were dialed in and TJ never had a chance,” Buchan said. “But the real story was how each team won three matches in a row to get there. No amount of coaching or parenting could have motivated the girls any better than their friends and rivals. I doubt that I will ever witness anything quite like it again. The competition was fierce, but the sportsmanship was spectacular.”

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