Centennial's tennis team is strong again this season, but not as strong as it could have been. Senior Katie Dougherty, who last May became the first player from Howard County to win a state singles title, has decided not to play.
"It was a tough decision," said Dougherty, who signed a grant-in-aid in November to attend and play tennis at the University of Wisconsin. "It's my senior year and I wanted to win another state title and help my school win county and regions."
On the other hand, Dougherty said she wanted her schedule "to be flexible enough so I could train [for national qualifying matches] and take time off when I need to."
Dougherty, president of her school's student government, said she currently plays two hours a day, six days a week.
And although she wouldn't say it, Dougherty is at a higher level than her peers in the county, and it wouldn't serve her or her opponents to play such one-sided matches.
Dougherty and her sister, Julia, won the state doubles title in 1996. Last season Dougherty lost only one game during the county schedule and never lost a set in postseason play. She finished 27-0.
"I think I accomplished all my goals in high school tennis," Dougherty said.
This just in
A couple changes have been made this season:
The home team will choose all the matchups, just like it was before the county went to an alternating system for the past two years.
The point system at the county championships has changed. In the past, a school would receive four points for winning a first-round match, three for a second, two for a first and one for the championship. This year it's reversed. Schools earn four points for winning a title, three for winning in the semifinals, two for winning in the quarterfinals and one for a first-round victory.
Team by team
Atholton -- The Raiders went 17-1 last year to earn the regular-season title, but aren't as strong this season. "I don't think we can win the championship this year," said Greg Dubac, who was named Howard County's Coach of the Year last year. "We'll win some; we'll lose some."
The Raiders graduated six of their top seven boys players. Senior Shomik Das, No. 4 last year, moves up to No. 1 this !B season. Seniors Aaron Brown and Jeff Bloom and junior Alex Horrom round out the top four. Junior Kristy Stutz retains her No. 1 spot on girls ladder, and Lauren Gleit, No. 4 last year, moves up to No. 2. Sophomore Prachi Patel and junior Melanie Scheick round out the top four.
Centennial -- "We've got a real solid team from top to bottom," said coach Daryl Blickenstaff, whose team had its run of seven straight regular-season titles ended last year by Atholton. "I think we'll be very competitive."
Returning players Babar Sultan, a senior, and junior Charles Lin are the top two boys players, respectively. Junior Mike Mayhew, a transfer from Hawaii, and junior Jimmy Choi round out the top four. Sophomore Jessie Abel and senior Susan Yi, Nos. 3 and 4 last year, move to the first two spots, respectively, this season. Juniors Keerthi Baskaran and Anne Chen are Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
Centennial earned its seventh straight Tournament Cup trophy and 11th in 13 years last season. The Eagles also won the Region III tournament.
Glenelg -- Coach Jean Shepard looks for her club to once again be competitive. Senior Justin Benoliel returns as the No. 1 boys player, followed by junior Matt Gaylor, a transfer from Georgia, and seniors Nathan Hoyle and Craig Haughton. "The boys ladder is the strongest I've had," said Shepard, now in her seventh season. Benoliel made All-County last season when he teamed with Lauren Brown to win county and region mixed doubles titles. They lost in the second round of the state tournament.
Senior Katie Frederick, No. 5 last year, moves to No. 1 on the girls ladder, followed by juniors Jodi Devou, Amy Taylor and Lauren Martin.
Hammond -- Coach John DiPaula expects his team "to be very competitive" this season. Senior Elliot Tobin, No. 4 last year, is No. 1 on the boys ladder, followed by seniors Kevin Ghozati, Jason Ortega and Josh Marti. DiPaula feels his girls team is one of the top three in the county. Junior Heather Tyng, a semifinalist in the county tournament last year, returns as No. 1, followed by seniors Ehrin Alexander and Lisa Laanisto and junior Elin Alvemark. Sophomore Jen Longmire was injured during the basketball season and will be added to the ladder at mid-season.
Howard -- Senior Mike Riedel, No. 5 last year, moves to No. 1, replacing county singles champion John Rockwell, now at UNC-Asheville. Junior Jesse Kieffer, senior John Shin and senior Darnell O'Connor round out the top four boys on Craig O'Connell's team. Juniors Sun Yi and Kristen Sucher are the top two girls, respectively, followed by sophomore Lelia Clark and senior Megan Brown.
Long Reach -- Coach Joe Staub said his second-year team has grown in maturity and skill level and looks forward to being more competitive this season.