The Thomas Jefferson tennis team claimed the league championship Oct. 6 in a 3-2 nail-biter against Auburn-Riverside. The Raiders begin district competition Friday, Oct. 13. Courtesy Richard Balster

Raiders tennis league champs again, head to district tourney in good shape

Thomas Jefferson boys tennis coach Andrew Buchan knew the Raiders’ season finale was going to be an exciting one.

Prior to their Oct. 6 match against Auburn-Riverside for the league championship title, Buchan predicted the result would be a tight one, with either the Raiders or the Ravens coming out on top 3-2.

Buchan’s prediction was right on. After losing the title of league champs the last two years to the Ravens, the Raiders, with a league leading 13-1 record, will carry that distinction with them as the team begins district play Oct. 13.

“We knew we had a chance, but it all came down to that final match,” Buchan said after defeating Auburn-Riverside. “It was pretty intense.”

While the Raiders took an early 2-0 lead, the Ravens caught up, leaving the league championship to be decided by doubles teams Matthew Arnold and Elyas Poore for Thomas Jefferson and Colby Tong and Andy Tu for Riverside. The teams battled it out to a 6-6 draw in the third set, forcing a tie breaker, where Arnold and Poore fought off four match points before claiming the victory themselves.

Buchan, who described Tong as probably best player in the North Puget Sound League Olympic division, with Arnold as a close second, said the nail-biter was a demonstration of how talented those two doubles are.

“It was fitting that in that match, the two best players in the league went head to head,” Buchan said.

The Raiders, however, have already set their sights on their next challenge in the district tournament when 48 singles teams and 48 doubles teams from the Olympic and Cascades divisions are set to meet. From there, the top 10 singles and doubles teams will advance to regional play and then on to state.

Players from three Federal Way high schools will be representing their schools at the district tournament.

In singles, Tae Hyung Kim, Decatur, is seeded No. 2; Tae San Nguyen, Todd Beamer, is No. 3; Jacob Buchan, Decatur, is the fifth seed; and Solomon Kim, Thomas Jefferson, is seeded sixth.

In doubles, Thomas Jefferson’s Arnold and Poore are seeded No. 1; Elden Buchan and Ben Ray, Decatur, are No. 2; and Thomas Jefferson’s Martin Lim and Austin Kim and Jack Balster and Logan Grall are seeded fifth and sixth, respectively.

“I think the Federal Way school district did really well,” Buchan said. “I think that T.J. was placed in good position, and now it’s up to the players to do what they’re supposed to do.”

Buchan said the singles player to beat is Auburn-Riverside’s Tong, who is seeded No. 1, and the Boupharath brothers from Kentwood are the best doubles team, seeded No. 1 in the NPSL Cascade division.

“I think beyond that, there’s a lot of really good players, and we’ll see who moves forward,” Buchan said.

He said, while the Raiders have a lot of tennis left to play, Arnold and Poore have a good shot at moving to state. He said he let the pair choose whether to play as singles or doubles for district play, and he thinks their choice was a good one.

“That’s their best chance at getting to state, and that’s their goal — to get to state,” he said.

Buchan said it is too soon to tell how the rest of the Raiders will fare.

“I think that’s putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “I think that the ultimate goal of my No. 1 team is to get to state, and they have the resume to do that, but as far as everyone else goes, we have to look at it match to match and see how it goes.”

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