At Havre de Grace, tennis winning a bigger following

April 24, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

The tennis team at Havre de Grace High School has stepped up to another level this spring, judging from the interest it has attracted.

The Warriors, winners of eight of their first 10 matches, five of them by shutout, are on their way to the best record in school history. It hasn't gone unnoticed by the student body.

Generally speaking, the amount of recognition a sport or a team generates is in direct proportion to its success. The best college teams have their pick of the best high school athletes. At the high school level, it becomes a status situation with students wanting to play on winning teams.

"It's natural. The students see success and want to be a part of it," second-year coach Kathy Graybeal said.

"The only problem is we're good because of our players, so it is a little more difficult to come out now and make the team than it was several years ago."

In the past, the school had had some good individuals, but as a team the Warriors usually were so-so. Two years ago, their record was 5-11, and last year, Graybeal helped turn it around to 11-6.

The losses were to traditional winners Bel Air, C. Milton Wright, and Fallston (twice each). This season in the first go-round, the Warriors lost only to Bel Air and Wright in 10 starts, outscoring the opposition, 89-21.

Each loss was a match the underdog Warriors could have won. Against Wright, the team lost a tie-breaker and a 9-7 match, and was close in a couple of others before losing, 8-3.

Against Bel Air, a 6-5 loss, the Bobcats won two tie-breakers -- matches where there were 10 match points, any one of which would have given Havre de Grace a 6-5 victory.

Jason Flick, the Warriors' No. 1 boy in three of his four seasons, is one of the top players in the county. He will take an 8-0 record into tomorrow's match at Fallston, where he will meet sophomore Paul Shearer, another top contender for the county title. Flick finished fourth in the county the past two years.

The makeup of the 19-player squad is indicative of its improvement. There are three seniors among the 10 boys and three seniors among the nine girls, as underclassmen have made a dramatic impact. In addition, there is a full JV squad.

For the boys, freshmen Andy Mitchell and Lev Shellenberger are 2 and No. 3, respectively, behind Flick, followed by juniors Mark Clark and Brock McDonald. The No. 2 doubles team of sophomores Mike Christopher-Mark Pelletier has an 8-2 record.

For the girls, two sets of sisters lead the way, as Heather (senior) and Jessica (sophomore) Swearingen are 1-2 in singles, and Pam (sophomore) and Courtney (senior) Craig are No. 1 in doubles.

Freshman Christine Pelletier joins Mark to provide a sister-brother combination.

Heather Swearingen cited Graybeal as a major reason for Havre de Grace's improvement.

"With her background, she has been able to improve the skills of the whole team," she said. "Although I've played at some of the county clubs, this is where I get my competition. The girls have gotten a lot better."

One of these is sophomore Kathy Foley, whom Graybeal believes is her most improved player. "She was 4-10 a year ago, and is now 8-1 [in singles/doubles combined]," Graybeal said.

Graybeal, a qualified teaching professional, often hits with the boys, because it helps them to work with someone who is stronger and better. The results speak for themselves.

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