With Tuesday's 9-2 victory over Havre de Grace, Bel Air's tennis team clinched the county regular season championship with a 15-1 record.
The Bobcats had six individuals or teams go undefeated through the season. Mike Murphy, who traded the No. 1 spot back and forth with Scott Burger and Jeff Roux, never lost a singles match. Freshman Colleen Akehurst also won every match playing No. 2 singles.
The doubles teams of Murphy and Vince Grandjean, Burger and Roux,Amy Sullivan and Kristal Dove, as well as Noell Mentzer and Denise Krohn, were unbeaten.
This week, the Bobcats try to add the HarfordCounty Tennis Tournament title to their accomplishment. The tournament begins tomorrow afternoon at Harford Community College and concludes on Tuesday.
The Bobcats' toughest competition is sure to come from Fallston (14-2) and C. Milton Wright (13-3).
The favorites forthe singles titles are Fallston's Amy Cox, a runner-up last year, and C. Milton Wright's William Knapton, half of last year's second-place boys doubles team. Both are undefeated at No. 1 singles this season.
In girls singles, C. Milton Wright's Serena Thomson or Jop
patowne's Denise Ziolkowski could push Cox. On the boys side, Knapton faces his toughest challenge from Joppatowne's David Neary.
While the look of the singles competition doesn't change from the regular season, the doubles matches are another story. Plenty of coaching strategy is involved in picking up points in the doubles competition. Coaches can create new pairings just for the county tournament.
"It's very hard to predict when it comes to doubles matches," said Bel Air coach Russ Guhr. "Sometimes you have a mediocre singles player who gets paired with somebody, and they could be the best team in the draw.Other times, a team that has gone all year could win it. It's very hard to judge. It's going to be a tight one, even though we won (the regular season title)."
Bel Air suffered its only loss early in theseason to C. Milton Wright, 7-4. But the Bobcats came back to beat the Mustangs, 6-5, in their second match.
In the first meeting withthe Mustangs, Bel Air was without two of its top doubles players. Junior Sullivan was out with an injury, while Grandjean, a sophomore from France, was on a trip with other exchange students.
In additionto the return of Sullivan and Grandjean, the Bobcats were also a more confident team by the second match, said Guhr.
"When they lost to C. Milton early, it served as a springboard for the entire season,"explained Guhr. "The match was so close, that's when they knew they could play with anyone in the county."
In addition to their five undefeated slots, the Bobcats have gotten strong performances from singles players Bob Gaffney, Susie Samuel and Heng Ou as well as the mixed-doubles team of Linda Frye and Scott Westfall.