After sharing the Maryland Scholastic Association BB Conference boys tennis title with St. Mary's and John Carroll in 1991, Severn moved its program up to the A Conference.
Even though the Admirals have fallen to 3-5 from last year's 9-1, third-year coach Rip Salmon hasn't been discouraged. He believes his team has done well competing against the MSA's upper echelon.
"Based on what we've done in the last couple of years, I know we belong in the A Conference," said Salmon, whose career record is 23-6. With teams like McDonogh and Gilman [undefeated conference co-leaders], you're gonna take your lumps."
Julie Ayers, Severn's No. 1 singles player, has given out as many lumps as she has taken. A four-year varsity player, she has a 4-4 record against some of the best male players the MSA has to offer. Beating up on the boys hasn't gone against her grain.
"I think I've won lots of matches because the guys don't like losing to girls, and when I get a couple of games up on them, it kind of shakes their confidence," she said. "They start wondering, 'Oh, no, am I gonna lose to a girl?'
"I kind of wish we had a girls team here sometimes. At least I'll get to see what it's like to play on a [women's] team when I play at Washington & Lee [University], but I like playing against guys. It's better competition. They hit the ball a lot harder than the girls."
Ayers, 18, started for the girls soccer team this past fall and has a 4.2 GPA (second in the senior class). She was a runner-up in the BB Conference No. 2 singles tournament last spring.
Yesterday, the bubbly senior apparently avoided her fifth loss of the year when rain halted the team's match against McDonogh (12-1 overall). The Eagles' Marcus Eyth -- one of the conference's best players -- was ahead of Ayers, 6-0, 3-1.
"She is just a good all-around player. She really doesn't have a weakness," said Salmon. "She has good ground strokes, she can volley when she needs to, and she's got a good head on her shoulders. She's gonna get a lot better in college. She's got a lot of good tennis in front of her."
Senior Mo Heinen, a member of the Admirals boys basketball team and Ayers' doubles partner (4-2), has a 4-4 record from his No. 2 singles spot. Severn's bottom three singles players are freshmen.
Doug Schmel (5-3) is considered to be the team's best hope at winning a tournament title (May 11 at McDonogh) from his No. 3 slot. E.J. Crawford (No. 4) and Skip Joslin (No. 5) are 3-4 and 2-6, respectively.
With three matches remaining, St. Mary's holds a 4-3 record after yesterday's postponed match at Boys' Latin.
Senior Jason Brianas (No. 4 singles, 5-1) leads the list of tourney hopefuls, while senior Steve Arnold (No. 1) and sophomore No. 5 Carmichael Simon both are 4-2.
"Jason has been playing very well of late. He puts a lot of spin on his shots, and he mixes them up very well," said first-year Saints coach Camille Corletta. "He, along with Brian Schumacher [2-3] and Simon should do pretty well in the [BB] tournament.
"Steve and Brian [Tessitore] are going to have a rough time. There are two kids, one from Boys' Latin and a Bulgarian kid from Poly, who are really good players."
Either Matt Stickler and Chris Dudley (2-2 at No. 1 doubles) or No. 2 Mike Key and R.J. Altmann (4-1) will represent the team in the doubles competition, with Corletta leaning toward the No. 1 duo.