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Decatur, Rice roll to SPSL tennis titles
By CASEY OLSON
The Decatur Gators and junior Chris Rice cruised to South Puget Sound League South Division championships with relative ease.
The Gators, who finished second during the regular season, easily outdistanced regular season champion Thomas Jefferson with 43 total points. The Raiders tallied 29 to finish second.
Scoring a bulk of the Gators points was Rice. The defending Class 4A state singles champion shutout Curtis Michael Cheong in the South Division final, 6-0, 6-0, at Auburn High School. Rice went on to earn the No. 1-seed from the SPSL into Mays West Central/Southwest District Tournament by downing Auburn Riversides Kyle Schraeder in an exciting SPSL crossover final match.
Rice looked to be on his way to another easy victory against Schraeder, who he beat in the SPSL final last year. The Decatur junior shutout Schraeder in the opening set, 6-0, but the Auburn Riverside junior came back and handed Rice his first set loss in a second-set tiebreaker, 7-5. Rice went on to win the decisive third set 6-1.
(He) is not quite there, said Decatur coach Steve Escame. He will be in the spring. He needs to play some tournaments. He did play very well, though. But hes not satisfied with where he is presently. He did have a loss of focus in the second set (against Schraeder), but the final set was a runaway.
Rice cut a tendon in his left hand last spring and is still working his way back into tennis shape.
Decaturs Lawrence Lin will also play in the spring. Lin earned the third seed from the SPSL South by beating Jeffersons Chris Yoon in the consolation final in somewhat of an upset, 6-2, 6-0. Lin was the seventh seeded player entering the tournament.
(His third place) was quite an accomplishment, Escame said. He had strong wins over the No. 3 and No. 5 seeds after losing in the quarterfinal.
Yoon earned the fourth seed and played the SPSL Norths fourth seed Thursday (after press time) in a crossover match. The winner advances to the district tournament, while the losers season is over. The SPSL sends seven into the district tournament.
The Gators also qualified the doubles team of Fabian Saenz and Travis Wagner into districts. The Decatur pair lost in the SPSL South championship match in three sets to Puyallups Konner Ayris and Scott Sullivan, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Saenz and Wagner were set to play the No. 2 seed from the North Thursday (after press time) to determine the leagues third and fourth seeds to districts.
The impressive part of their accomplishment is that they rarely played together this season, Escame said. They put everything together at the tournament. They didnt know they were playing together until the day before. I suspect they will iron out their deficiencies during the off-season.
The Jefferson doubles team of Jewel Sharpe and John Poore also earned an automatic berth into districts. Sharpe and Poore downed TJ teammates Zach Bunting and Shane Odenwalder in the SPSL South third/fourth consolation final, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. Bunting and Odenwalder played a loser-out match with the Norths fourth seed Thursday for the leagues final berth.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com