Senior Ryan Cole of Pikesville came into yesterday's singles finals of the Baltimore County Region VI Tennis Championships with a resume worthy of any aspiring racket star.
During his four-year stint as the Panthers' No. 1 player, he had won 45 of 46 regular-season matches, been ranked as high as sixth in state 18-and-under play and fared well in a handful of national tournaments.
But it wasn't until he defeated Randallstown's Mike Steinberg, 6-1, 6-3, yesterday that Cole could add another title to that impressive list -- county champion.
"In past years I've always been really tight in the counties," said Cole (13-0), who after finishing runner-up as a freshman dropped to third as a sophomore and fourth last year as a junior. "I felt like Dan Jansen -- always with a good chance to win but never coming through and winning it.
"Today I was really loose, and I was able to come up with the big shots when I needed them."
The Panthers also won three other county titles and just missed a fourth. Less than a week after winning the county team title over Dulaney, Pikesville picked up where it left off.
Other Panther champions included Ryan Millman and Elyse Kaplan (mixed doubles), Mike Roth and Steve Grossblatt (boys doubles) and Kelley Margolis (girls singles).
In girls doubles, Hereford's Kate Badders and Anna Rives handed Pikesville its only loss in the finals, edging Nataly Frankel and Jenni King, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.
For Margolis, winning a county title was particularly special, considering it came against her younger sister Jamie Margolis.
The sophomore, said the pressure to triumph against her sibling was "unbelievable."
"We're really competitive," said Kelley Margolis (13-0), who won, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, to break her sister's 156-game winning streak.
She said the key to victory was forcing her type of match.
"The problem is that I start to lose when I play her game," said Kelley, who likes to be aggressive and rush the net. Her sister prefers to sit back and volley.
"I have to just play my game and take my chances."
For Jamie (13-1), a freshman, the match was almost a no-win situation.
"It's very tough," she said. "If you win a set you feel very guilty, but if you lose it you feel very mad."
The two advance to next weekend's state championships at Essex and Pine Valley, where Kelley likely will be a No. 1 seed.
Last year as a freshman, she fared well in the states before losing a grueling three-hour match in the finals.