Sports

Defending state champ Chris Rice defaults to fifth

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

It wasn’t the way Decatur senior Chris Rice wanted to enter his final run at a state championship.

The two-time defending state singles champion was forced to default his final two matches Saturday at the West Central/Southwest District Tennis Tournament at the Sprinker Recreation Center in Tacoma. Rice was suffering from a left ankle sprain when he was forced to quit his semifinal match against Bellarmine Prep’s Paul Namkoong. Struggling with the ankle injury, Rice was down 6-2, 5-2 when he decided to default.

He also didn’t play in the third-place match against Auburn Riverside’s Alex VanDerschelden. Rice will be the district’s fifth seed into the state tournament. He earned an automatic berth to state after easily winning his first and second-round matches on Friday.

Despite having to default the final two matches Saturday, Rice will again be the prohibitive favorite at the 2006 State Tennis Championships, which kick-off Friday at the Vancouver Tennis Center.

The Beamer doubles team of Megan Havili and Judy Liening should also make some noise in Vancouver after finishing as the runner up during Saturday’s West Central/Southwest District Tournament.

But to break through and win the school’s first-ever state title this weekend, the Beamer pair will most likely have to get by the Bellarmine Prep team of Suzie Matzenauer and Alita Fisher. The Bellarmine team easily dispatched Havili and Liening in the district final match Saturday, 6-0, 6-2. The championship match at the Sprinker Recreation Center in Tacoma lasted only 33 minutes.

Havili and Liening finished in second place at last year’s state championships and fourth in 2004. Fisher, along with now-graduated Katie Kennel, beat the Beamer pair in both the district and state finals last year.

Rice , Havili and Liening will have a lot of company in Vancouver at the state championships. A pair of Decatur doubles teams on the boys’ side will also be playing Friday. Fabian Saenz and Lawrence Lin finished up in fourth place and Travis Wagner and Tim Blackner ended up eighth at the West Central/Southwest District Tournament.

Saenz and Lin took the long road to the state tournament by dropping their quarterfinal match on Friday afternoon and were forced to win four-straight matches in the consolation bracket, which included a 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) win over Wagner and Blackner in the consolation semifinals and a 6-0, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 victory over Gig Harbor’s Brent Smoots and Dave Worthen in the fourth-sixth match.

Wagner and Blackner also lost in Friday’s quarterfinal before winning two matches in the consolation bracket to secure the state berth.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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