After losing its first big match against Arundel, the Old Mill tennis team needed something to give itself a lift in yesterday's encounter with four-time defending county champ Severna Park.
Throughout the school day, members of the Patriots squad sported tags on their clothes that reminded them about the Falcons' vaunted 64-match winning streak.
"The players decided to wear tags that said, 'Severna Park 64 straight,' with a little Ghostbuster circle next to it that had the number 65 with the line through it," said Old Mill coach Randy Stevens. "They needed something to get themselves up for this match."
Old Mill's superstitious ploy was almost what the witch doctor ordered -- had it not been for Severna Park's No. 2 boys doubles, Joe Laidley andAndy Smith.
The sophomore duo pulled out a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 come-from-behind win over Eric Schumaker and Inkyo Sorenson to clinch a 5-4 win -- upping their record to 11-0.
"When we played Arundel (April 15, a 7-2 loss to the Wildcats, who were 9-1 before yesterday's matchagainst Northeast), we were very timid, but today, we had nothing tolose. Severna Park had to play on the defensive side because of their streak," said Stevens, a 10-year coaching veteran. "This was the best match of the year in the county. It could have gone either way."
Before the end of the deciding doubles match, Old Mill (9-2) lookedas though it could become the "streakbusters." Schumaker and Sorenson had held a 3-1 lead in the third set, until Sorenson's serve was broken in the fifth game, setting up a rally by Laidley and Smith.
"I think it (the service break) was a case of Sorenson having bad nerves. Things like that happen sometimes," said Stevens.
Laidley said, "We didn't realize what the (team) score was." Smith added, "We didn't think. We just came back point by point."
After pulling in front 6-5 in the final set, Laidley-Smith fell behind 30-15. A double fault by Shumaker evened the score at 30. The stage then was set for Laidley, who cranked a vicious forehand cross-court winner past Sorenson on the return of serve. On the next point, Shumaker smacked Smith'sreturn of serve long, securing the win for the Falcons.
"I'm veryexcited," said Severna Park coach Margie Nicholson. "I knew going into the match that it would go 5-4 either way. Our boys (Laidley and Smith) really pulled it out under pressure."
While the Falcons wound up winning the war, the Patriots' No. 1 boys singles player Matt Servinsky (10-1) won his own personal battle over 8-3 Al Thomas, 3-6,6-4, 6-2. With the win, the junior baseliner grabbed the No. 2 seeding for next week's county tournament at Chesapeake.
"I had a feeling that I could come back," said Servinsky, who recorded an 11-1 season last year at the No. 2 singles position. "Albie's kind of streaky, and I think the wind had something to do with the way he played.
"I think he's going to do really well in the tournament, though. He's a really good player. I think it'll come down to me, Albie, Wade, (Berush of Broadneck) and (Arundel's Doug) Neagle . . ."
In addition toServinsky, winning for Old Mill were probable No. 1 tournament seed Brent Layman and Phil White (8-0), 1-6, 6-4, 6-4; Amy Heffelfinger and Leigh Brokovich, 6-4, 6-3; and perhaps the county's best mixed doubles duo of Matt Pharr and Beth Zawislak, 6-4, 6-1.
Other point-getters for Severna Park were 11-0 Katherine Hobbs (No. 1 girls singles,6-0, 6-2, the county's No. 1 seed); Ben Rawitt (No. 2 boys singles 6-2, 6-1); Erika Fulton and Petra Smeehuyzen (No. 1 girls doubles, 6-4, 7-5); Suzette Povich (No. 2 girls, 7-6, 6-2).