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SPSL North boys tennis
• Favorite – Kentridge.
• Contenders – Jefferson, Kentwood.
• Sleepers – Auburn, Auburn Riverside.
• Last year’s standings – Kentridge 12-0, Jefferson 10-3, Kentwood 10-4, Federal Way 7-4, Tahoma 5-9, Kentlake 4-9, Decatur 3-10, Kent-Meridian 0-12. (NOTE: Because of rainouts that were not made up, not every team completed its 14-match schedule.)
• Outlook – Kentridge returns three of the five players who went to state last spring: Matt Overland in singles (third place), and the doubles team of Paul Yi and Vineeth Omkaram (did not place). Overland is regarded as the second-best player in the division behind two-time defending state champion Max Manthou of Kentwood, and is one of those who can actually slug it out with him groundstroke for groundstroke, though Manthou ultimately shows why he’s a cut above the rest. Add to that players such as Garrett Ballou and Donald Hall, (both juniors), senior Christian Ohno and sophomore Howard Lin, all varsity veterans, and it’s understandable why KR has the favorite’s role. But Jefferson also returns most of its roster, including district qualifiers Joe Lee and Branden Muraki, both juniors, and sophomore Makoa Rosa, who was the only freshman boy from the SPSL to make the district draw. He will be joined this year by his freshman brother, Kainoa. Kentwood is always in the mix, and the Conquerors typically can count on a point from Manthou before they even take the court. Auburn Riverside, which won the SPSL North title in 2005 before leaving for a two-year stint in Class 3A, graduated most of the familiar names that teamed up for an SPSL 3A title in 2006 and a runner-up finish in 2007. But the Ravens have a strong JV program, and many of the top players there are ready to slide into varsity positions and keep AR competitive.
FIVE TO WATCH
Jr. Max Manthou Kentwood
Notable: He’s the two-time defending state singles champion. Any questions?
Jr. Matt Overland Kentridge
Notable: Hard, accurate hitter who has emerged as the North’s best player – after Max.
Jr. Joe Lee Jefferson
Notable: Went 4-1 in singles, and teamed with Brendan Muraki to earn a district bid in doubles.
Jr. Garrett Ballou Kentridge
Notable: Played primarily in the No. 2 singles spot, but went 7-0, then took fourth in the league tournament to make district.
Sr. Jake Stewart Federal Way
Notable: Solid and steady, 7-3 during the regular season at the No. 1 spot, qualified for district.
Sept. 10: Kentridge at Jefferson. OK, so who’s really the favorite? This one could go a long way toward providing the answer. (Rematch Oct. 1 at Kentridge.) Sept. 12: Jefferson at Auburn Riverside. Are the Ravens a spoiler – or a bona fide contender? (Rematch Oct. 3 at Jefferson.) Sept. 19: Auburn at Auburn Riverside. Both of these teams are potential sleepers in the division title chase. (Rematch Oct. 10 at Auburn.) Sept. 22: Kentridge at Kentwood. Fierce, but respectful rivalry. Always an impact match, too. (Rematch Oct. 13 at Kentridge.)