Year after year, North Carroll boys tennis coach John Lynam has dueled it out with the other veteran coaches for bragging rights in the county.
Going into his 17th season, he announced it would be his last as he plans to retire to spend more time with his family.
His last go-around should be a good one with the Panthers trying to wrest away the county crown from Fran McCullin's Westminster Owls. South Carroll, under Jim Carnes, also should be in the mix. Liberty and Francis Scott Key are both relatively young, but could surprise.
The girls picture also looks unclear with defending county champ Westminster losing some key players to graduation, but still talented and full of depth under Ken Shook.
South Carroll and North Carroll both have experienced groups back. Liberty is full of youth.
Francis Scott Key, coming off a 9-4 season under Donna Baker, (( won the Monocacy Valley Athletic League but lost all four of its county matches. With a lot of talent returning, a good gauge on the Eagles' season could be how they improve in county play.
Francis Scott Key
Baker's girls squad will try to pick up where it left off last year as MVAL champ. The boys are starting from the ground up with an enthusiastic group dominated by underclassmen.
Baker has reason to be excited after last year's 9-4 season. She's lost only one player to graduation, has her top two doubles teams intact and has 20 girls on the roster who all show promise.
Seniors Paula Koontz and Heather Stinson make up the No. 1 doubles team. Juniors Robin Day and Maureen Ritcey will be at No. 2.
Senior Jenn Adler, who played doubles last season, has moved into the No. 1 singles slot and has shown a lot of aggressive play.
The boys will be co-coached by John Baugher and Derrick Hess. After an 0-13 season in 1993, they are looking to build a future for the program.
"This is a challenging year for the Key boys," Baugher said. "For the first time in years, we have 10 or 12 kids competing for eight spots. That in itself will make us competitive and work all the harder."
Sophomore Erik Keoppen and senior Philip Gertner, an exchange student from Germany, are competing for the No. 1 singles spot. Juniors Ryan Griffin and Collin Caprarola -- both returnees -- have the inside track at No. 1 doubles, but Baugher said all the doubles spots are still up for grabs.
Bruce Damasio enters his 14th season as Lions coach with an inexperienced group eager to learn.
"We're very young and it's time to teach. Everyone has a real healthy attitude," he said.
"It's like building a house. This year we're laying down the foundation; the next two years we'll work on the framework and then comes the roof."
The boys are coming off a 5-9 season with five players returning with varsity experience. Senior Mike Knoerlein saw regular time in doubles play, often pairing with junior Mike Weiner. Senior Shawn Lemmer, junior Kanaan Thomas and sophomore Jason McDermott also return.
The girls (6-8 in 1993) are in the same kind of rebuilding mode.
Back in singles competition is sophomore Dawn Schaeffer, who competed at No. 2 as a freshman. Junior Jammie Hutchinson, senior Melissa Phelps and sophomore Angie Buscemi all saw regular time in doubles action last year.
Lynam would like nothing better than to go out on a high note and may just have the returning talent to do so.
The girls, under the direction of new coach Bob Dean, also have a handful of quality returnees back from last year's 4-9 squad.
Lynam knows it will be a tough battle in the county with defending champ Westminster full of talent and South Carroll always tough. But the Panthers have an immediate edge with the return of county champ Craig Eckard at No. 1 singles.
The Panthers also have two right-handed/left-handed combinations at doubles, which Lynam believes should give opponents problems. At No. 1 doubles, senior left-handed Jeremy Bellusci -- who played at No. 2 singles last year -- teams with fellow senior Chad Calhoun. The other left-hander is senior Mike Workman, who is paired with sophomore Jim Ellis at No. 3 doubles. In between, Lynam has returning sophomores Brian Mayle and Derrick Easter at No. 2.
On the girls' side, the Panthers have experienced players back who are still young. Juniors Laurie Kreseski and Lori Bradford are both back at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively. Juniors Melissa Glover and Holly Rudisill will play at No. 1 doubles.
One thing you can expect from Carnes' tennis teams is they will improve as the season progresses and they'll have a say when the county tournament rolls around.
The boys (5-8 in 1993) have a few question marks going into the season, and the girls (9-4) lose only one regular from last year's squad.
Carnes will look to junior Andrew Stevens at No. 1 singles to fill the void left by the graduated Paul Weinhardt. Carnes said Stevens comes back much improved after competing at No. 2 singles last season.