The race for the Harford County Tennis Tournament team title couldn't have been closer.
Bel Air and C. Milton Wright had tied for the regular-season championship with identical 15-1 records. They had played twice. Once Bel Air won, 6-5. Once the Mustangs won, 6-5.
In the tournament, however, Bel Air had just a little more power. The Bobcats' Jeff Roux and Colleen Akehurst won singles titles, while Bel Air had the runners-up in girls and mixed doubles. That was enough to give the Bobcats the team title for the tournament, played Monday and Tuesday at Harford Community College.
Bel Air coach Nancy Dove said the overall depth of her team and the strength of her girls team made the difference.
"We had seven [doubles teams or singles players] that came into Tuesday's semifinals," Dove said. "The next closest was Fallston and C. Milton Wright, with four each. Everybody on my team had to win at least one round, which they did, for us to take home the tournament trophy."
Roux said winning the team title was important to the Bobcats, even though they didn't think about it much.
"I don't think there's that much pressure to win the team title," Roux said. "Nobody thinks, 'I have to win this so the team can win the championship.' You just do your part and it'll work out."
Roux beat Fallston's Tim Bystry, 6-2, 6-3, to run his season record to 20-0. The junior had already beaten Bystry twice during the regular season.
"Both times I really didn't play well," said Roux. "But late in the match I found out if I came into his backhand, he would have a pretty tough time. Once I got rolling, the match really went well."
The victory was the second county tennis title for Roux, an assistant pro at the Baltimore Country Club in Roland Park. Last year, he teamed with Scott Berger to win the boys doubles title.
The Bobcats' other champ was Colleen Akehurst. The sophomore, who finished third last year, defeated Joppatowne's Beth Jacobs, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Akehurst (17-1), played No. 2 singles all year behind teammate Susie Samuel. Samuel fell to Jacobs, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals. She then lost to North Harford's Valerie Phipps in the consolation match, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
C. Milton Wright's Katie Hatton and Jen Jones won the girls doubles, while Serena Thomson and Saul Passe took the mixed doubles title.
Mustangs coach Peter Griffiths said he used a different strategy in the tournament than he had for the regular season.
"To me the best teams were Bel Air and us, and that was established during the county season," Griffiths said. "When the tournament starts I try to put people together who can do well in the districts. That's not to take anything away from Bel Air. They're a great team, and they deserved to win."
One of Griffiths' biggest changes was moving No. 1 girls singles player Thomson into a mixed doubles team with Passe. Thomson, a senior who lost only one singles match during the regular season, has played mixed doubles in four straight county tournaments. She and her partners won two years ago and finished second the other two years.
This year, she and Passe combined to defeat Bel Air's exchange student team of Camille Belliard and Peter Wulff, 6-2, 6-2. Belliard, who also played hockey for the Bobcats, is from France; Wulff came to Bel Air from Denmark.
In girls doubles, Hatton and Jones beat Bel Air's Kristal Dove and pTC Amy Sullivan, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1. Fallston's Dave Burns and Greg Lemoine defeated C. Milton Wright's Ed Kim and Jake Lambert, 6-2, 6-3 in boys doubles.