Should Andrew Kabacy ever tire of playing tennis, he might try his hand at directing photo shoots next.
The Skyview High School senior put his directing skills to work on a bright September afternoon, getting his teammates to shoot balls at the proper height, then assisting the photographer to get his settings just right for the perfect shot.
His work in front of the lens finished, he checked a couple of the shots on the camera screen and gave his OK. Off he went then to rejoin his teammates for the last few minutes of practice.
As good a director as he showed himself to be, though, it’s not likely he’ll be giving up tennis any time soon. Kabacy, after all, is the reigning Class 4A state champion in boys singles, and considering how close he came to not winning last May, he’s not about to give up the title so easily.
A few months ago, Kabacy breezed through his opening match at Columbia Basin Racquet Club in Richland, then won his quarterfinal in three sets to set up a dramatic Saturday.
In the semifinals, Kabacy was down a set and a break to Lewis and Clark’s Kyle Fager and staved off two match points to break back and eventually win the second set 7-5, then fought back from two breaks down and trailing 5-2, 40-15 in the third set to win the match in a tiebreaker.
“All my friends and family are thinking, ‘Oh well, at least he made it this far,’” Kabacy said, “but I’m thinking to myself, ‘You can do this. Tennis is not a timed sport. You can always win,’ and I just will-powered my way through.”
A couple hours later, Kabacy put himself behind the 8-ball again in the championship match, dropping the first set to Derek Chao of Issaquah.
“I’m sitting there on the court, and I’ve got to figure out my mojo and how to win this match,” Kabacy recalled. “A lot of tennis has to do with yourself holding you back. I just got into a zone. I knew I had a job to do, and I did it.”
He did it in style, blitzing Chao over the next two sets to win the title 2-6, 6-1, 6-1, helping lead Skyview to its first-ever team title as well.
“It was the most heart-racing, intense feeling I’ve ever had,” said Kabacy, who earned All-Region Player of the Year honors. “Next to being chased by a tiger, I can’t think of anything like it.”
Four months later, Storm coach Jay Gowen still was in awe over what Kabacy had accomplished.
“I have never seen a comeback like that at the state level,” he said. “He just never gave up. With that much pressure on him, it was incredible.”
Still, Gowen explained, if there was one player in the state who was perfectly suited for such a comeback, it was Kabacy.
“He just doesn’t get rattled,” Gowen said. “As good as he is physically, mentally he has a high tennis IQ. He makes his opponent work for every point. Both guys he faced (Saturday) tried to hit him off the court, but Andrew is so steady, so unbreakable, he weathered the storm and they finally withered.”
Perhaps what’s ironic about Kabacy winning the title last season was that as a freshman and sophomore, he’d lost only one match in those two years combined before he crashed out each time at state.
The cruelest cut came his sophomore year, when the day before leaving for the state tournament, he was playing basketball in PE class and rolled his ankle. He limped through his opening match, a straight-sets loss to Jonathan Dudley of Bellarmine Prep, the sixth-place finisher from the West Central District, before defaulting his consolation match.
“I did well for hopping around on one leg,” Kabacy said, laughing. “That just made me really, really, really want to win state last year.”
After winning the state title, Kabacy took a couple months off from tennis—the first extended absence he voluntarily took from the sport in quite some time.
He first took up the sport as a 4-year-old when his family lived in Lake Oswego. His family belonged to the Multnomah Athletic Club, so he played Tiny Tots, which he called more babysitting for the coaches than anything else, but he had so much fun, he was soon playing twice a week.
Because boys tennis is a fall sport in the Greater St. Helens League, Kabacy would stay busy between the bi-district tournament (he beat the Seattle area’s best as a sophomore and the South Sound’s best as a junior) and state by playing at the University of Portland’s tennis academy, facing off against opponents like Peter Murphy of Jesuit, who won the Oregon 6A title last year as a freshman.
Kabacy also hopes to play collegiate tennis and has visited Division III Willamette and is looking at Puget Sound, Gonzaga, Seattle University—all of which have outstanding law schools, where he can follow in his father Robert’s footsteps—as well as Whitman and (of course) University of Portland.
But this summer, with his family finally selling its house in Ridgefield and moving into a new home just a few blocks from the Skyview campus—he had a boundary exception that allowed him to attend first Alki Middle School, then Skyview—and taking a long vacation to Mexico, Kabacy avoided the U.S. Tennis Association junior circuit and just relaxed.
He returned right before the start of fall practice and didn’t skip a beat.
“It doesn’t look like he took time off at all,” Gowen said. “He has the uncanny ability to flip a switch on when he steps on the court. As matches start coming, he’ll have rust to work off, but tennis is just natural to him.”
Just as Gowen predicted, Kabacy looked a bit rusty and wasn’t at 100 percent when he faced two players this past weekend who’ll likely stand in his way at state in May.
Those losses, however, don’t figure to faze Kabacy one bit.
“Tennis, for me, is about hanging out with a lot of awesome friends,” he explained. “Winning is really satisfying, but the best part was sharing my state win with my best friends.”
Andrew Kabacy’s Favorite Things
TV show: Rick and Morty
I love it because it’s got a lot of raunchy humor. It’s science fiction. It’s weird. It’s everything I want in a TV show.
Movie: The Matrix trilogy
I love the story, but then there’s all the hidden meanings in it. I can watch it a million times and still not figure everything out.
Book: The Shack
I’m not super-religious, but that book has a lot of good morals in there that I liked. It shows you how to be a good person.
I really like seared tuna.
School subject: History
In my opinion, it’s the most important subject to sustain our country and the human race so we don’t make the same mistakes others have.
Cartoon character: SpongeBob SquarePants
I relate to him a lot. He’s always happy about almost everything. I feel like I have a positive attitude all the time and am a pretty happy person.