A year ago, before teams exchanged serves and volleys that counted, Mount Hebron tennis coach Casey Crouse said she had "the players to be competitive."
The Vikings were much more. They surprised the county by going 15-2 to win their first regular-season title since 1984, then topped it off with their first Tournament Cup championship.
"Last year there was a lot of hidden talent," Crouse said. "We had players that people didn't know about."
That's not the case this season. Five Vikings girls and three boys are back. There are no more surprises.
"We're not the underdog anymore," said junior Katie Long, a singles finalist in both the county and Region III tournaments. "There's a little pressure to live up to the expectations."
Said Crouse: "It's going to make it a tougher year for us."
But that doesn't mean the Vikings can't go back-to-back.
"Our top seven boys and girls are strong," Crouse said. "If they play to their potential, we can do extremely well."
Centennial and Wilde Lake tied for second last season with 14-3 records. Both teams, and fourth-place finisher River Hill (12-5), will challenge the Vikings this season.
New point system
The county tournament will use a different point system for the third straight season.
Each victory, whether it comes in the first round or finals, will be worth one point.
Two years ago, first-round wins were worth four points, followed by three, two and one for the championship. Last year, it was reversed, with the champion getting four points.
New format in 2000
Girls and boys teams will be separate next season. "The coaches wanted to do this," said coordinator of athletics Don Disney. "We will pilot this next year and see how it works."
Teams will be scored separately, and at the end of the regular season, there will be boys and girls champions.
Team play now consists of four singles matches (two boys, two girls), the same in doubles, plus mixed doubles. Each team uses seven boys and seven girls.
Next season, teams will use eight girls and eight boys. Singles will remain the same, but boys and girls will play three doubles matches each, replacing mixed doubles.
Mixed doubles will resume in the county tournament and be used in regional and state play.
Team by team
Atholton: Coach Greg Dubac said the Raiders, 8-9 last season, "will be a lot better." Senior Kristy Stutz returns as No. 1 girl, followed by senior Melanie Scheick, junior Prachi Patel, senior Michelle Pappas, junior Nalini Periasamy, sophomore Jennifer Gill and sophomore Audrey Park. Stutz and Shomik Das won county and Region III mixed-doubles.
Junior Chris Fox, seventh last season, moves to No. 1. Freshmen Sam Guarnieri and Oliver Baranczyk are Nos. 2 and 3. Junior Arun Ram is No. 4, followed by seniors Brent Machado, Dung Thach and Alex Horrom.
Centennial: Coach Daryl Blickenstaff said his team, second last spring, has "the motivation to win the championship." Seven Eagles' boys are back. Seniors Charles Lin and Mike Mayhew are Nos. 1 and 2, followed by juniors Shankar Sridhara, Shawn Sultan and Matt Lano and seniors Mike Thomas and Jimmy Choi.
Junior Jessica Abel is the No. 1 girl again. Senior Anne Chen and junior Mina Choi are Nos. 2 and 3. Other girls: sophomores Christina Hong, Alice Taylor, Jennie Choe and freshman Tiffany Clay. "We were disappointed we didn't do better in the county and regional tournaments [last year]," said Blickenstaff. "I think we can do better."
Glenelg: Last year's team lost five matches by 5-4 scores and finished 4-13, coach Jean Vanderpool's first losing season out of seven.
Vanderpool has high hopes this season. "I would expect us to be competitive and finish in the top four or five," she said.
The girls' ladder has more depth and experience. Sophomore Kate Boomershine, a transfer from New Jersey, is No. 1 and expected to challenge for the county title. Seniors Amy Taylor and Jodie Devou are Nos. 2 and 3, followed by freshman Rebecca Gaylor. Seniors Erin Hasslinger, Lauren Martin and Gia Palacarrola round out the team.
Senior Matt Gaylor, No. 2 boy last year, takes over the top spot. Junior Danny Iamperi is No. 2, followed by seniors Craig Haughton and Adam Smith, sophomore Chris Smith, junior Leo Sardarian and freshman James Krometis.
Hammond: Senior Heather Tyng, No. 2 girl last season, moves to No. 1. Senior Jessica Garvey is No. 2, followed by freshman Hanelle Brown-Niles, juniors Mary Porteous and Jeanette Porteous and freshmen Lauren Eisenberg and Sothery Ngin.
Senior Vasu Balu, No. 5 boy last season, is No. 1. Freshman Dan Marti is No. 2, followed by senior Greg Burnett, freshman Geoff Deutsch, senior Lincoln Tran and freshmen Mike San and Jeff Greenfeld.
Howard: The Lions have a new coach, Kevin Hendon, a physical education teacher at Clemens Crossing Elementary. Howard's top six girls are seniors, led by Amirah Rahim and Sun Yi, who return to their Nos. 1 and 2 positions. Kristen Sucher is No. 3, followed by Lauren Schneider, Alexis Nadoiny and Wendy Stum, and sophomore Elisa Vasta.