All-howard County Tennis Team

June 10, 1994|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Special to The Sun

As the saying goes, it's hard to quarrel with success.

That's why disagreeing with Bill Shook's coaching is a huge waste of time.

Shook directed Centennial to its sixth straight Howard County title. The Eagles compiled a 14-0 record in the regular season, winning 111 of 122 individual matches for the 10th-year coach's best percentage ever.

Then, it was on to the county tournament, which they dominated with an event-record 65 points. Mount Hebron was next with 43.

Because of these achievements, Shook is The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Tennis Coach of the Year.

One of Shook's disciples, Eagles senior Becky Knouse, is the Girls Player of the Year for the second straight season. She finished 13-0 in the regular season at No. 1 and won the county, Region III and state doubles titles with her sister, Stephanie.

The Boys Player of the Year, Mount Hebron's David Mitchell, also had an unblemished regular-season record (14-0) at No. 1 before claiming the county and regional singles titles.

Under Shook, the Eagles have won 42 of their past 43 county matches. He does it by teaching savvy on-court techniques plus using foresight to develop talent from the moment freshmen sign up to play.

"I didn't really earn it this year," Shook said. "I started to earn it two years ago because, at that point, kids that I could have cut as freshmen are now juniors."

Shook isn't referring to talent-laden players such as Knouse or Brian Ruppert, the Eagles' top boys seed. He means someone such as senior Brett Bunch, an unheralded player as a freshman who excelled in Shook's system to win the county and regional boys doubles titles this year with Brian Higgins.

"The key to the coach is to look at who you've got at the 5, 6, 7 spots and see what you can do with those kids because they aren't top tennis players," Shook said. "You can't automatically expect your 1, 2, 3 players to win every match for you."

While Centennial has been winning consistently, so has Knouse. Her undefeated season capped a 52-0 high school career, as she became the first county player to win every match over four years.

She and Stephanie, a junior, defeated Eagles teammates Susan Green and Michelle Brown for the county crown, before winning the regional and then state championship over South Hagerstown's Tracy Koenig and Jennifer Ungerer, 6-0, 6-1.

After coming off 1993 county and district singles titles, Knouse set high goals for capping her Eagles career.

"My first goal was to be undefeated in all four years during the regular season," she said. "I also wanted Centennial to dominate the county and go undefeated. I was proud of our team this year."

The Knouse sisters' state title gave Shook his first state championships in tennis and volleyball in the same season. He has coached Centennial volleyball to three straight state crowns and four in the past five years.

Meanwhile, at Mount Hebron, Mitchell (23-1) was ultra-confident all year, said his coach, Cliff Bernstein. The confidence showed.

After his undefeated regular season, he won four more singles matches in the county tournament, the finale being the championship match over Howard's Sam Booker, 6-2, 7-5. For Mitchell, the win avenged Booker's 7-5, 6-0 victory in the same event in 1993.

"I felt I had been outplayed by Sam on that day," said Mitchell, referring to last year's match. "That's why I inspired myself to work on some of the weaknesses that he had exploited."

Mitchell beat Booker again for the regional title, 6-2, 2-6, 6-0, before losing in the state tourney's second round for his only loss.

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