2000 All-Howard County tennis team

May 31, 2000|By STAN RAPPAPORT

Boys Player of the Year

Rohan Nabar, freshman, Mount Hebron: Nabar went unbeaten through the regular season and county tournament, where he beat fellow freshman Ryan Yao of Glenelg, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, for the championship. He lost to High Point's Simon Mbock, 6-0, 6-1, in the Region III final and bowed to finalist Ben Hatten of Churchill in the first round of the state tournament. "It was an unbelievable season," Nabar said. "Going undefeated was really nice. I didn't expect it. I just concentrated on one match at a time." Nabar had two close calls in the regular season. He rallied from a 6-3 deficit to beat Yao, 8-6, and won the last three games to beat Wilde Lake's Ari Zweig, 9-7, on the final day of the regular season. Nabar plays an aggressive game from the baseline and will charge the net only if he has to. He plans to work this summer on improving his mental toughness, as well as making his serve more of a weapon. Nabar moved to the area during the summer from Jacksonville, Fla., and said he "didn't even know I was going to play No. 1 before the season started." He said being undefeated and the good times he had with teammates made this a season to remember.

Girls Player of the Year

Katie Long, senior, Mount Hebron: When the season began, Long thought she might be playing mixed doubles in the county tournament. She wasn't sure whether she could beat Wilde Lake's Lauren Bondroff, a singles finalist the year before. Bondroff beat Long, 8-2, the first time they met, but on the last day of the regular season, Long reversed things and beat Bondroff, 8-2. Suddenly, Long was looking at the county tournament with a different perspective. "Winning the county became a realistic goal when I beat Lauren the second time we played," Long said. And sure enough, Long beat Bondroff, 6-1, 7-6 (1) for the county title and lifted Mount Hebron to the tournament cup title by one point over the Wildecats. Long beat Eleanor Roosevelt's Shannon Ambush, 6-2, 6-3, in the Region III semifinals, avenging a loss in last year's regional. Long, who will play next season at St. Mary's, lost, 6-2, 6-1 to Eleanor Roosevelt's Leslie Price in the final. Price went on to win the state tournament. Long, who was a singles finalist in the county two seasons ago and finished fourth last year, said she had the "perfect season. I didn't expect to win regions because Price was there. My goal was to do the best I could in county and regionals, and I did." Long said her confidence improved this season, and her ability to play different styles came in handy. Against Bondroff in the county final, Long played a more deliberate game, returning almost everything Bondroff hit with a soft, well-placed shot. In her match against Ambush, Long said, she "had to step up and be the aggressor and put away shots before she did." Long also credited her teammates for giving her good matches in practice and making her work harder.

Co-Coaches of the Year

Matt Graves, River Hill: Graves directed the Hawks' boys squad to a 17-1 record and county title. "When you're strong from top to bottom, you can win a lot of matches," Graves said. "The kids knew they were strong and had a confident attitude every time they played." Graves, whose girls team was 12-6, is a first-year physical education and health teacher at River Hill. He played basketball and golf at Wesley College in Delaware before graduating in 1992 and coaching the school's tennis team in 1995. He most recently was an assistant men's basketball coach at Lynchburg (Va.), where he earned his graduate degree. "I play tennis, but not competitively," Graves said. "Going out and playing with them made it a lot of fun for me as their coach. In fact, out of seven years of coaching, this was the most fun I've had. Why? Because of the different personalities on the team and their general attitude toward the game. They knew when to take it seriously, and they enjoyed being out there. Those were the keys."

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