A balanced league could bring out better competition

County squads set to present Liberty with more challenges

March 20, 2000|By Mike Frainie | Mike Frainie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

This March's unseasonably warm weather has been a blessing to many people in the area, but none more so than the tennis coaches at Carroll County's high schools.

"It's a luxury we haven't had for a while," says Francis Scott Key coach Donna Baker.

The county could have another luxury this season -- a more balanced league.

North Carroll's girls, the defending county champions, have lost some key players, while Liberty's boys, the other defending champions, do not appear to be a lock to repeat either.

The Lions graduated only two members from that team (Jeff Shook and Adam Youssi). Doug Ferguson, who finished third in the county among singles players last year, returns.

Last season marked the fourth consecutive year that the Lions have won either the boys or girls title in Carroll County.

The Liberty girls lost five players from last years team, but figure to be strong again.

Bruce Demasio prefers to wait until the season begins to judge how his team will do.

"We'll be competitive," he said. "We'll show up and let our rackets do the talking."

The North Carroll girls will be hard-pressed to repeat their county championship feat. The most glaring loss for the Panthers was Brooke Foster, who combined with Heather Easter to win the state doubles crown last year. The two won an unprecedented three consecutive county doubles titles.

Easter, a senior, returns, and her leadership will be a major factor in the team's success. Other notable losses will be Charis Fulton, Jessica Bradford and Tracy Golden.

"Programs go through cycles, and this could be a rebuilding year for us," said North Carroll coach John Lynam was one of The Sun's Co-Coaches of the Year in Carroll County along with Demasio. "We still have a good team this year, but we're trying not to focus on last year."

Lynam said sophomore Peggy Szewczuk, who served as the team manager last year, has an excellent chance to make the team this season.

For the Panthers boys, Lynam said the lineup, as far as singles are concerned, is a toss-up, but that the team of juniors Shawn Czajkowski and Matt Love will probably make up the No. 1 doubles team. They will be pushed by Dan Burden and Greg Stone, both of whom are also juniors, who will probably be the No. 2 doubles team.

South Carroll's boys team returns sophomore Ben Hamlington, who was the runner-up in the county last year in singles. He will compete for the No. 1 position with his brother, Peter, a senior, and fellow sophomore Aaron Taylor.

"We're still not sure about our doubles team, but we should be strong in singles," said South Carroll's Jim Carnes, who co-coaches the team with Pam Boan.

The team will have additional depth from seniors Beau Brooks and Nick Hamblet and juniors Josh Loar, Geoff Anszenbach and Brett Puaturi.

Sophomore returnee Sarah Smith returns to lead the Cavaliers girls in singles, while seniors Christy O'Hare and Sandy McKinnon, and junior Meredith Carr will vie for the second spot.

Other returnees returneesinclude Erika Hunsinger, Amy Conner, and Kelly Atwood.

At Westminster, the boys returns four starters, and the team looks to improve on last year's .500 record. Sophomore Jesse Myers, who finished fourth in the county last year in boys singles, and senior Greg Hallstead will probably play singles for the Owls. The doubles team of junior Mike Leuking and senior Bill Dailey also return.

"I think we're miles ahead of where we were last season," Westminster boys coach Fran McCullin said. "We have better depth this year, and I'm really impressed with the new players joining the team this year."

Don Cook takes over the girls team at Westminster, and said he aims to make tennis fun for the Owls.

The Owls girls return their top singles player in junior Christy Stansfield. The doubles teams will be led by senior Rachel Lindsay and junior Ann Yust.

Cook inherited eight seniors, and their leadership could be a major factor in how the team does with a first-year coach. Lauren Reese, Jen Menaker, Megan Beaver and Andrea Kerns, all of whom are seniors, will be expected to contribute.

Things are also looking up for the Francis Scott Key girls. The Eagles lost only one senior from a 7-7 team, and will return fourth-year starter Charlotte Gowen, their No. 1 singles player, who finished second in the county last year. Baker says that Gowen has worked hard in the off-season to improve her game, especially at the net.

Backing up Gowen will be senior Joyce Watkins and sophomore Kate Farley, both of whom will play some singles.

"We're still trying to find the right combinations for doubles," Baker said, "but we have a good group to draw from."

In addition, the Eagles are deep, a luxury the team hasn't had for a while. Senior Courtney Griffin, and juniors Sarah Caprarola, Mandy Sandridge, Sarah Wardenfelt, Megan Sands and Meghan Lingo will be counted on to play significant roles.

Things could not be any more different for the Key boys. The turnout was light this season, and coach Derrick Hess is looking for a No. 1 singles player to replace Peruvian exchange student Derek Manheim, who won the county boys title last year.

Senior Stuart Isreal, part of a successful doubles team, will return, and finding him a suitable partner will be a priority. The team will graduate only two seniors this year, so the program should continue to get better.

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