Severna Park's Katherine Hobbs and Old Mill's doubles team of Brent Layman and Phil White wound up taking home the first-place trophies at the state tennis finals Saturday at the University of Maryland.
But they traveled a different road to their respective titles.
In the first set of her match against Oakland Mills' (Howard County) Susan Clancy, top-seeded Hobbs (23-0) had little trouble in pounding out a 6-1 win. A couple of yards away, however, Layman and White were in the process of getting blown out by Montgomery County Wootton's Todd Unikel and Yong Park, dropping their initial set, 6-0.
It was at this point that a dramatic turn of events occurred in both matches.
The 90-degree heat took its toll on Hobbs, who lost the first two games of the second set. After fighting back to take the next three games, the defending district champ twisted her right ankle while making a backhand return.
"I didn't know if I was going to make it (through the ankle injury) or not," said Hobbs.
"It was really tough, but Margie (Falcon coach Margie Nicholson) and everyone else helped me out a lot. They kept telling me that I could do it."
"When I came back on the court, I was just worried about being careful. Ididn't want to go for anything impossible, I just wanted to be careful."
Meanwhile, back on the doubles court, White and Layman began to steal the momentum away from their adversaries, shaking the early match jitters on their way to a 6-1 second-set triumph.
During thePatriots' comeback, Hobbs was being treated by Nicholson, assistant Bob Nawaral, and Hobbs' father Richard (an assistant at Old Mill). After gingerly walking back to the court, Hobbs finished Clancy off, 6-4, her second victory over Clancy in as many weeks.
Just before the end of Hobbs' victory, Layman and White (22-0) had jumped out to a 4-1 third-set lead, then withstood a comeback attempt by the Wootton tandem to claim the third set, 6-4, as Layman's overhead smash put the exclamation point on Old Mill's first-ever state championship.
"What a relief," sighed a happy but drained Layman after the match. "This really feels good. I'm glad we got it over with when we did, because I didn't feel like serving anymore."
"When I saw them pop thatlast return up in the air, I though to myself 'OK Brent, none of that touch stuff, put it out of here,' " said White, who unlike his graduating partner, will return for his final season of play next year.
"The key to their success was the way they kept their heads, even when they were losing," said Old Mill coach Randy Stevens. "They're such a coachable pair, and they work really well together. Unlike many doubles teams, they never get down on each other."
The unseeded twosome rolled through the first three rounds of the two-day tournamentwithout the loss of a set. Earlier in the day, they whipped McDonough's (Charles County) Garry Cooke and Jimmy Edwards, 6-3, 6-4, while Hobbs disposed of Beall's Holly Ralston in her semifinal, 6-4, 6-3.
In other tournament action, Broadneck's Wade Berusch (second in lastweek's district tournament) was upended in the second round of the boys singles by top-seed Neil Maurer of Parkside, 6-3, 6-2; Matt Servinsky suffered a 6-3, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Ryan Harper of Cambridge, while Old Mill's mixed-doubles team of Matt Pharr and Beth Zawislak were beaten by Walt Whitman's Herman Stuart and Liz Henken.