1999 All-Howard County tennis team

June 03, 1999|By Stan Rappaport

Coach of the Year

Ron Shelton, Wilde Lake: The message Shelton gave his players on the first day of practice was to the point. "He made sure everyone knew that winning the county was our first goal, said Wilde Lake junior Ari Zweig. "And during the season, he made sure everyone was focused and physically ready to play the matches."

The Wildecats didn't disappoint, going 18-0 and earning their fourth county title and first since 1985. "This was our best season." said Shelton, a ninth-grade health teacher who just completed his fourth season as tennis coach 'You can't do much better than finishing undefeated. My kids play well together - basically, the only thing I had to do was just try help keep them motivated. And we did that by coming out and having fun and challenging each other in practice. That kept us on top."

A U.S. Tennis Association-certified teacher, Shelton has earned his team's respect. "He doesn't say much, but what he does say is valuable, because he has so much experience," said Zweig. "Everybody respects his opinion."

In turn, Shelton values assistant coach Patsy Taubman. "She is the other half of what I do. She has all the talent and ability to coach a team. She's been very helpful throughout the years, and I can't conceive of coming out here and not working with anyone else but her."

Girls Player of Year

Mari Rubert, Wilde Lake, senior: She remembers that first day of practice. "I didn't know if I was going to make the team," said Rubert "My serve was really bad. I didn't have the touch."

Wilde Lake coach Ron Shelton remembers those early days, too. "She came out the first part of the season a little rusty, but I could see things were there. As the season went on, she got stronger and stronger, and I really thought she wouldn't have a problem in the county tournament."

Shelton was right Rubert, seeded third, defeated top-seeded Katie Long of Mount Hebron, 6-0, 6-4, in the semifinals and second-seeded and Wildecats teammate Lauren Bondroff in the final, 6-1, 6-0.

"She played great," said Bondroff after the championship match. "I didn't expect to lose by that much."

Rubert, an exchange student from Valencia, Spain, began playing tennis when she was 10 but quit three years later. She came to the United States last August and attended Arundel High School, where she played soccer. She moved to a new host family and began attending Wilde Lake in February.

She decided to start playing tennis again to meet new friends and to have something to do after school.

"My game is not as good as it was, but I'm getting there," said Rubert, who lost in the finals of the Region III tournament and dropped a first-round match in the state championships. "I need to practice with someone who hits harder and makes me think more."

Rubert was second-seeded on the Wilde Lake ladder the entire season behind Bondroff but made an impact. And, it was felt both ways.

"The people at school have been so nice," said Rubert, who hopes to continue her education in the United States "I'm so happy I'm a Wildecat."

Boys Player of Year

Ari Zweig, Wilde Lake, junior: The only repeat All-County selection, Zweig went unbeaten during the regular season and won singles titles at the county tournament and the Region III championship.

"I was pretty happy with my year," Zweig said. "I just wish I didn't get No. 1 seed at the state tournament. " Zweig won his opening match at the states, then faced top-seeded Babok Alidoosti of Frederick. Zweig fell behind 3-0 and 5-3 in the first set before falling, 7-5. He lost the second set, 6-2.

"Every game went to deuce," Zweig said about the second set, "so I was happy with the way I played."

Zweig became a more powerful player this season, and it showed when he defeated Centennial's Charles Lin, 6-4, 6-2, to win the county title.

"Ari had a good season last year, but this year was better," said Wilde Lake coach Ron Shelton "He became a stronger and more aggressive player. The power tennis he played enabled him to win some matches he might not have last season."

Zweig serves left-handed but hits the ball right-handed A natural lefty, Zweig copied the style of his right-handed father, Bob. At age 10, a private instructor told Zweig he should serve with his stronger left hand. Zweig began serving that way but didn't want to change hitting right-handed.

"It took me about a year to get the serve down." Zweig said "As far as switching my racket from one hand to another', it was never a problem."

Zweig is glad he switched "Being able to slice a serve to a person's backhand is such an advantage," he said. Zweig's strongest shot is his two-handed back-stroke. "I can hit it harder and can place it better," he said. "It's more consistent than my forehand."

Zweig plans to week over the summer on his serve and volley game. He'll attend a tennis camp at Duke University, and also teach at a Columbia Association tennis camp.

The team

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